How to prepare Pommes Anna

Pommes Anna classic French dish of sliced, layered potatoes cooked in a very large amount of melted butter.
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Pommes Anna is a classic approach to cooking potatoes. It is essentially potato slices looked in lots of melted butter. Whilst it might not do much for cholesterol levels it is certainly a classy way of presenting potatoes and enhances any dish.

The potatoes need to be firm of flesh so they can be cut as thinly as possible. Ideally 2mm is the best thickness but many chefs get thinner on this. The slices are then layered into a baking pan or tray, smothered in garlic butter with some peppercorns and then baked or fried as a potato cake.

The cake needs to be flipped and turned every 10 or 15 minutes until the whole is crispy and golden. The cake should be about 6 to 8 inches in diameter. It is often served as a potato wedge.

It is still possible to find a particular double baking dish made of copper called la cocotte à pommes Anna. This is still available in France for cooking this dish. It consists of upper and lower metal halves which fit into each other so that the whole container ant its contents can be inverted during cooking.

The original recipe is credited to Adolphe Dugléré who was head chef at the famous Café Anglais in Paris, France. It is not clear who the dish is named for but there are a number of courtesans who were friends with Napoleon III at the time who could rightly claim credit for their signature on this dish.

Serves 6-8

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The equipment required is straightforward:

Ingredients For Pommes Anna:

  • 800g Charlotte or Maris Piper potatoes 
  • 110g butter 
  • garlic 2 cloves, crushed or minced
  • 10g thyme leaves
  • 1 tsp pink peppercorns crushed, plus extra to season

Preparation:

  1. Heat the oven to 190ºC/fan 170ºC/gas 5. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper and use a pencil to draw 3 x 12cm circles on each piece of paper, then flip the paper over.

  2. Use a mandolin or very sharp knife to cut the potatoes into 2-3mm slices. If you can manage 1mm then even better but that is extremely thin. 

  3. Place the potato slices into a large bowl of cold water to soak for 20 to 30 minutes, refreshing the water halfway. The alternative is to rinse the potato slices in a colander under cold running water until the water runs clear. This helps to remove some of the starch.

  4. Ideally, drain and wrap these in a clean tea towel. Squeeze well, being careful not to break the slices, until the potatoes are dry. 

  5. Melt the butter in a pan over a moderate heat. Once foaming, add the garlic and peppercorns, cook for 1 minute or until the garlic has slightly caramelised then remove from the heat. Cool slightly and set aside.

  6. Brush the bottom of a flameproof and ovenproof, round non-stick baking dish, approximately 22cm in diameter, with the garlic butter. Sprinkle some thyme leaves over the top, followed by a layer of the potato and shallot. Repeat the process a few times until all the potatoes have been used. Be sure to season the layers with salt and freshly ground black pepper each time. After the last layer of potatoes, place two whole thyme sprigs on top and brush everything with more garlic butter.

  7. Make a cartouche which is a cover of baking paper over the surface of the potatoes. Gently cook on the hob over a moderate heat for approximately 15 minutes.

  8. Using the bottom of a cake tin, similar in diameter to the baking dish, cover in aluminium foil and place on top of the cartouche. Place an ovenproof, heavy weight on top of the disc (this could be another heavy ovenproof pan). Bake in the oven for 1 hour 30 minutes.

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