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“You like potato and I like potahto
You like tomato and I like tomahto
Potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto.
Let’s call the whole thing off…”
Writers: George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin
A guest in one of my classes asked me recently what I would do if I couldn’t be a chef instructor. I responded that if I could earn a living at it, I would love to be a student of culinary history. Interesting enough, I found out that there is a group here in Chicago called the Culinary Historians of Chicago. I love to look at old recipes such as the classic potato dish Potatoes Anna and see how I can update them for today’s home cooks.
Let’s look at Potatoes Anna in a historical context. The following recipe is from “The Complete Guide to the Art of Modern Cookery” by Auguste Escoffier, one of the most important cookbooks of all time. The first version printed in French is called Le Guide Culinaire and was first published in 1902. The English version was first translated by H.L. Cracknell and R. J. Kaufmann in 1979. On page 498, recipe 4174, we find “Pommes de Terre Anna,” which reads as follows:
“Trim the potatoes cylindrical shape then cut them thin slices; wash and dry in a cloth.
Arrange the slices overlapping in a thickly buttered Pommes Anna mould or a thick-bottomed sauté or omelette pan, arrange another layer on top going in the opposite direction to the first then season and spread with butter. Continue in way until there are 5 or 6 layers of potatoes.
Cover the pan and cook in a hot oven for 30 minutes turning it in the mould if necessary so that it colours evenly all over.
Turn out on a lid, allow the excess butter to drain off, then slide the potato on to the serving dish.”
I have done this recipe a variety of ways, but have never used a Pommes Anna mold, which looks like this:
I have used sauté pans, cast iron skillets, etc. before, but I actually think this dish works best in an 8-inch cake pan. In the below recipe, I use butter that has been clarified and lightly caramelized. Lastly, I add shredded Parmesan Reggiano to each layer for flavor.
Potato Anna Redux
Yield: 4 Servings
Active time: 20 minutes
Start to finish: 70 minutes
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
24 ounces of potatoes, unpeeled and washed well
8 tablespoons of clarified/caramelized butter
1 cup shredded Parmesan Reggiano
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the butter in a small saucepan on low heat until melted and cook at a slow simmer until all the cream has solidified and has turned golden brown. Strain and reserve.
Using a mandolin, cut the potatoes into very thin slices and place into a bowl. Cover the potatoes with cold water and rinse well. Drain about a third of the sliced potatoes and then dry them well with a kitchen cloth. Place the dried potatoes in a clean bowl and toss the slices with enough butter to lightly coat and finish with salt and pepper.
Cover the potatoes with cold water and rinse well. Drain about a third of the sliced potatoes and then dry them well with a kitchen cloth. Place the dried potatoes in a clean bowl and toss the slices with enough butter to lightly coat and finish with salt and pepper.
Liberally brush the bottom and sides of an 8 inch cake pan. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the inside of the pan and add while also liberally buttering it.
Arrange the sliced potatoes overlapping each other. After one layer, add a sprinkling of Parmesan. Continue until you have 5 or 6 layers. Drizzle a little more butter on top and brush the sides.
Cover and place in the oven and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the cover and bake for 20-25 minutes more until the top is golden brown.
Remove from the oven and allow it to cool slightly. Loosen the sides and then turn the Potato Anna out onto a cutting board. Carefully remove the parchment paper and cut into a serving size to serve.
If you are a Potatoes Anna aficionado, try this version out and let me know what you think. If there a recipe that you would like to see updated and not sure how to do it, send it to me and I will have a go at it.
Ron Martin is a Chef-Instructor at The Chopping Block. His food background began in a small town in southeastern Indiana and quickly blossomed into a full on love of food and flavors. He is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and also has a degree in Elementary Education. He never misses an opportunity to expand his palate and learn new styles and foods. Ron's number one partner in his culinary adventures is his wife Sharon and sometimes their two teenagers. Besides working at TCB, he enjoys working on home improvement projects, making good beer, St. Louis Cardinals baseball, playing golf (poorly), and hanging out with his family, 2 dogs and 2 cats.