Leave it to the French to not only assign a name to what could possibly be the world's simplest potato recipe, but to document its invention, name it after a stylishly dressed tramp and then make $400 pans to cook it in.
Potatos Anna, or Pommes Anna, was invented in the 19th century. Rumor has it that someone cooking during the reign of Napolean whipped it up in stylish Parisian restaurant, and named it in honor of a cutie with great clothes. I'm not sure how much of an honor having a skillet of potatoes and butter named after you is.Then again, Potatoes Anna has lived on, and I bet you can't name the chick without Wikipedia.
Potatoes Anna is DELICIOUS. It consists of four ingredients - potatoes, butter, salt and pepper. That's awesome. The French manufacture a beautiful copper double-sided pan that allows the dish to be flipped over every ten minutes while roasting, in order to get both the top and bottom crispy and fabulous. If you don't happen to have one - never fear. The same results can be duplicated with a simple cast iron skillet with just an easy trick or two. The result will be a crispy potato cake, several inches high, with a buttery, tender interior. It's a perfect example of making simple ingredients shine with very little fussing.
3 lbs potatoes, sliced very thinly
6 tablespoons butter, melted
freshly cracked black pepper
The best way to slice the potatoes so they are both very thin and all even (so they cook evenly) is to use the slicer attachment of a food processor, or a mandoline set to 1/4 inch. You can ppel the potatoes - that's the classic way. I leave the peel on most of the time cause I HATE peeling potatoes.
Slice all potatoes, but don't rinse them after they're sliced. You want the starch to stay - this helps keep the potatoes together so they form a cohesive cake.
Preheat oven to 450F. Pour a couple of tablespoons of butter into the bottom of a cast iron skillet - mine is 10 inches. Layer the sliced potatoes in the bottom overlapping the edges to form a spiral. Sprinkle lightly with kosher salt, a few grinds of black pepper, and repeat with another layer of potatoes. Keep repeating until you've used all the potatoes, using salt and pepper throughout. Once finished, pour remaining butter over the top of the potatoes.
Tempting as it may be to brush every layer with butter - don't. You'll end up with something like a potato chip casserole. The butter prevents the starches from forming the potatoes into a cake. Honestly - it's delicious this way too - but you'll have to use a spoon to dish them up. There's no way to invert it without having potatoes fly all over the place. Not that I'd know that from experience.
Place pan on the stove set on very high - you want to bring the temperature of the pan up and start the potatoes on the bottom layer crisping. Cook until you hear the butter sizzle really well, then pop the pan in the preheated oven.
Bake for about an hour to 1 1/4 hours. You want the potatoes fork tender all the way through. When done, remove pan from the oven, and run a butter knife around the edges to loosen. Allow the potatoes to cool for about ten minutes, then invert onto a serving platter. Cut the Potatoes Anna into wedges to serve.
Potatoes Anna can also be made in advance. Allow them to cool in the pan completely then cover and refrigerate. To serve, bring to room temperature for half an hour, then heat in a 350F oven for about twenty minutes.
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