I was watching No Reservations recently when Anthony Bourdain said something about cooking not being so much a calling as an affliction. I’m afraid this is especially true when you’re a food blogger.
I almost didn’t post this recipe, which was part of our lovely Christmas dinner, simply because I’m not thrilled with the photos. Surely I’m not the only blogger – who isn’t also a professional photographer, that is – who, when faced with a particularly tasty dish, but less less than inspiring photograph, who says, “I wonder if I’ve got a recipe somewhere with a better picture I can post instead?”
Such was my dilemma with this recipe, which is absolutely delicious and just as stunning, visually, when properly executed and photographed. Unfortunately, in this case, the photography portion rather fell short – partly because the cake came out in two sections when I turned it out of the pan (a hazard with the particular dish), and I had to reassemble it, and because my choice of serving vehicles were a little…monotone. Ah, well; from what I understand, even professionals have their bad days, so I’m going to suck it up, realize that both Tastespotting and Foodgawker will probably turn this down – it certainly wouldn’t be the first time – and post what is probably Beloved’s favorite potato dish.
Pommes Anna is a rustic but classic French preparation of potatoes, reputedly named after the most loved and respected courtesan in 16th-century Paris. Traditionally it is cooked in a special copper pan designed especially for the dish, but since I share Alton Brown’s disdain for single purpose kitchen utensils (to say nothing of the fact that copper cookware is obscenely expensive; the Pommes Anna pan on the Williams Sonoma website is $400), I cook mine in my well-seasoned, 12″ cast iron skillet.
Like many French dishes, Pommes Anna is not difficult to make, but it is exacting: skip a step or take a shortcut, and the finished product will suffer. In this case it won’t be the taste – potatoes and butter are pretty much going to taste good no matter what you do to it – but in the presentation. If you don’t press down on the potatoes, it will fall apart when you turn it out of the dish. If you don’t shake the pan occasionally, the potatoes on the bottom will stick when you turn it out of the dish. If you don’t start it on the stovetop, the potatoes won’t brown properly.
Now, having said all of that, this is going to taste absolutely marvelous even if it doesn’t come out in one golden, crisp-yet-tender disc. I make mine with Japanese sweet potatoes, although you can use regular sweet potatoes or white potatoes, if you’re so inclined, but no matter the type of spud you use, it is simply a rich, delicious dish.
The best thing? If you use sweet potatoes, either regular orange or Japanese, it’s a rich, delicious dish that’s Whole30 complaint.
- 3 large Japanese sweet potato, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1/3 cup ghee or clarified butter, melted
- salt and freshly-ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 400 F.
- Liberally brush the inside of a 12" saute pan or cast iron skillet with some of the melted ghee. Arrange the potato slices in concentric rings emanating from the center of the pan, forming layers until all of the potato slices have been used.. Carefully brush each layer with clarified butter and lightly season each layer with salt and pepper.
- Place the pan on the stove and cook, undisturbed, over medium heat until golden brown on the bottom, about 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the potatoes to the oven and cook until browned and cooked through, about 30 minutes, pressing the potatoes occasionally to compress and shaking the pan to prevent the potatoes sticking to the pan.
- Drain any excess butter from the pan and carefully flip the potato cake out onto a cutting board. Slice into wedges and serve.
- Nutrition (per serving): 146 calories, 10.3g total fat, 27.1mg cholesterol, 37.1mg sodium, 222.1mg potassium, 13.1g carbohydrates, 2g fiber, 2.7g sugar, 1.1g protein