Whenever I come across a recipe that includes a woman's name, I always wonder how the name came about. Is the dish named after its creator, or was the name a lovelorn chef's attempt at impressing a potential lover?
Such is the case with pommes Anna, the French potato dish featuring thinly sliced potatoes layered and cooked with nothing but butter and salt, and sometimes thyme.
It is generally agreed that the dish was created by chef Adolphe Duglere at Cafe Anglais in the mid-19th century. But exactly who Anna is remains a bit murky. Some food historians say it was Anna Deslions while others say it was Anna Damiens, both women were "grandes cocottes" who entertained in the Paris cafe.
Sometimes pommes Anna is called pommes galette — galette being a much looser term used for round, flat cakes or pastries. Regardless of what you call it or which Anna is the recipe's namesake it makes a delicious side dish that's easy to make.
Here the recipe gets a minor update by being prepared in individual dishes and adding just a touch of garlic, black pepper and a sprinkle of freshly grated parmesan.
I used miniature iron skillets, but a muffin tin or 4-inch cake pans would also work.
Individual Pommes Anna
- 1 to 1 ½ pounds small red or gold potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled
- Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 to 4 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1 clove garlic, minced OR 1 teaspoon garlic paste
- Vegetable oil, for brushing
- 2 to 3 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese
Heat oven to 375 degrees.
Using a sharp knife or mandoline, cut the potatoes into 3mm thick slices.
Place them in a medium bowl and add salt, pepper, garlic and the melted butter. Toss gently to thoroughly coat the potatoes.
Brush the bottom and sides of 4 to 6 miniature iron skillets, 4-inch cake pans or a 6-well muffin tin with vegetable oil. Layer the potatoes in slightly over lapping circles in each dish, filling each to the top. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
Bake, uncovered, for 35 to 40 minutes or until potatoes are tender, brown and crisp.
If desired, invert potatoes onto a serving plate. Sprinkle with a little more parmesan and black pepper.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.