Pommes Anna: The Potato Showstopper You Should Make

Next time you are asked to bring a potato dish to a dinner, instead of preparing the same-old mashed potatoes or scalloped potatoes, wow the crowd with pommes Anna. This beautiful French dish is like a piece of art on a pie plate. Described simply, pommes Anna (actually translated to "apples Anna," as potatoes are known as the apples of the earth in French) consists of thinly sliced potatoes that have been layered neatly in a round pan and baked to create a tender and flavorful side dish to grace a dining room table, per Serious Eats. When biting into a slice of pommes Anna, first you'll be greeted with a crunchy exterior and then a soft, moist inside.

With only a few ingredients, the trick to making a superb pommes Anna lies in the process of assembling the dish. Like so many French recipes, this one calls for a copious amount of butter, as well as Yukon Gold potatoes, fresh thyme, and some other pantry staples, according to The Epoch Times. Pommes Anna is a deceptively difficult dish to make, per Santa Fe Reporter, which tests the skills of the chef.

Created in a Paris cafe

The creation of this classic French potato dish is credited to Adolphe Dugléré, who worked in Paris in the 1800s, reports The Epoch Times. Dugléré developed his culinary skills under Marie-Antoine Carême, who is known as the chef behind France's "haute cuisine." Pommes Anna was developed during the mid-19th century while Dugléré served as head chef at Café Anglais in Paris.

Considered the most famous restaurant in Paris at the time, Café Anglais hosted many famous guests, per Santa Fe Reporter, and employed entertainers and courtesans. One of those entertainers was Anna Deslions, and it is believed by some that Dugléré named his potato dish after her. However, The Epoch Times says some theorize pommes Anna was named after Anna Damiens, who performed under the stage name of Dame Judic at Café Anglais. In more modern times, pommes Anna has been touted by such famous chefs as Julia Child. Child even called pommes Anna, the "supreme potato recipe of all time," according to Closer News Weekly.

How to make pommes Anna

Traditionally, to make pommes Anna, the cook places the thinly sliced potato into a pan that is already heated, so the slices fry in butter as they are laid down, details Serious Eats. While some modern recipes skip the hot pan, a recipe on Food Network still calls for a nonstick or seasoned cast iron skillet to be heated over medium to medium-low heat. The thinly sliced potatoes are placed in overlapping layers in the pan after they have been patted dry with a towel. The New York Times recommends the potatoes to be very thin, but not paper thin. Some of the skill in making a lovely pommes Anna is creating uniformly thin potato slices, according to Food Network, which can be accomplished with a sharp knife, a grater, or a mandoline.

After one layer of potatoes is created in the pan, melted butter is poured over it. A total of three layers should be assembled, according to Food Network, and seasoned with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Continue to cook the pan on the stove for about 25 to 30 minutes until the potatoes become golden on the bottom and crisp on the outside. The New York Times' recipe for pommes Anna also calls for the potatoes to be drizzled with olive oil and additional butter. At the start of the cooking process, the pan should be covered to give the potatoes a steam bath to soften and cook the interior of the potatoes.

How to serve pommes Anna

Like a pineapple upside down cake, the cooked pommes Anna needs to be removed from the pan and placed on a serving platter or plate. Betty Crocker recommends using a small spatula to loosen the potatoes from the edges of the pan, and then to gently shake to dislodge the potato cake from the pan's bottom. Next, invert the potatoes onto the plate, and then cut them into wedges for serving. It's best to serve the pommes Anna while still hot, per The Epoch Times

For additional flourish, you can garnish the dish with grated parmesan, recommends Santa Fe Reporter. Similarly, both Food Network and Betty Crocker list parmesan cheese as an ingredient to be added to the top layer before cooking. Adding green onion and bacon to the dish makes it a great swap for mashed potatoes at a holiday dinner, per Santa Fe Reporter. Other additions to be considered for pommes Annes are shallots, ham, or extra cheese. Another suggested garnish for pommes Anna comes from Williams Sonoma in the form of chopped fresh chives. If you prefer really crispy potatoes, Betty Crocks suggests inverting the pan of cooked potatoes onto a cookie sheet and then baking for another 5 to 7 minutes before cutting and serving.

No matter the occasion, give your standard potatoes an upgrade with the classic French pommes Anna, and enjoy the sight and taste of truly fantastic French cuisine.