We had a snow day today--no school! I love snow days because they are like gifts, and always seem to come just when I need one. I also love snow days because they give me an excuse to be even more of a homebody than usual, and today was no exception.
With more time to prepare dinner, I decided to make pommes Anna, one of my favorite potato dishes. I've made this dish many times, but for fun, I consulted my new Julia Child cookbook to see how Julia made pommes Anna.
Reading through the the recipe I learned something about the history of this crispy potato cake. According to Julia, pommes Anna was "created during the era of Napoleaon III and named, as were many culinary triumphs in those day, after one of the grande cocotte of the period."
Want to make pommes Anna? You'll need several potatoes, a stick of unsalted butter, and salt and pepper for seasoning. I recommend using a cast iron skillet; I have tried other baking dishes, but the cast iron skillet yields the crispiest result. And Julia's recipe calls for clarified butter, though I've used unclarified with success.
Preheat the oven to 450. Slice the potatoes the same as you would for a potato gratin, into thin coins; don't rinse the potatoes after cutting. Place the skillet on the stove top over medium heat and put several pats of butter in the skillet. Starting from the center, arrange the potato coins in a circular pattern. Continue arranging the potatoes this way, layering them as you go. I prefer to season them the layers as I go with a little salt and pepper.
Bake the potatoes at 450 for about 45 minutes, or until the top gets brown. Julia's recipe calls for covering and weighting the potatoes for the first 20 minutes of baking, which you can certainly do. When the potato cake is brown and crispy, loosen the sides by sliding a knife around the edges, and carefully invert it onto a serving plate. Let the potatoes rest for a few minutes before slicing and serving.
Whatever recipe you follow, you are almost guaranteed to end up with a tasty potato cake, crispy on the outside and tender and buttery on the inside.