Modern and classic Parisian recipes abound in Tasting Paris, by renowned blogger and author Clotilde Dusolier of Chocolate & Zucchini. Pick up a copy and freshen up your French repertoire in time for your next dinner party. These brown butter pommes anna are a quintessential side dish for roasted meat and simple seared fish.
Once located on boulevard des Italiens, Le Café Anglais dominated Paris’s social and culinary scene in the nineteenth century, thanks to its rarefied atmosphere and visionary chef, Adolphe Dugléré, who had trained under Antonin Carême. The restaurant closed on the eve of World War I, but its legacy lives on in literature—in the work of Zola, Flaubert, Maupassant, and Proust—and through the chef’s creations. The most famous is probably Pommes Anna, named in honor of a famous courtesan who frequented the restaurant, Anna Deslions.
It is rare to find this dish on the menu at Parisian restaurants nowadays, which is a shame. Pommes Anna is a study in simplicity and sophistication: Thin slices of potatoes are arranged in a spiral pattern, each layer brushed with melted butter and sprinkled with salt, then baked until golden. I gild the lily by using brown butter, which adds a nutty flavor.
- 2 1/2 pounds waxy potatoes, peeled
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
For the potatoes
Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Using a sharp knife or mandoline, slice the potatoes ¹⁄8 inch (4 mm) thick. (Do not rinse or soak the slices; the starch is what binds the layers.)
In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat and cook, swirling the pan, to get it to the brown butter stage: First, the butter will boil in large bubbles. Soon, the bubbles will get smaller, the pitch of the boil will get higher, and the butter will turn light brown and smell nutty. At this point take off the heat immediately and pour into a bowl. (If you overcook the butter, the solids will burn and form black, acrid-tasting flakes. Throw it out and start again; it’s happened to the best of us.)
Grease the bottom of a shallow 10-inch ovenproof cast-iron pan with some of the brown butter. Cover the bottom of the pan with one-third of the potato slices, arranging them in a slightly overlapping, circular pattern. Brush with one-third of the remaining butter and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon of the salt. Make two more layers using the remaining potatoes, butter, and salt. Set over medium heat and cook, without disturbing, to initiate browning on the bottom, 10 minutes. Cover loosely with foil, transfer to the oven, and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake until the potatoes are cooked through (a knife should pierce through easily) and the top is browned and crusty, 20 to 30 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes on the counter.
Run a spatula around the edges and underneath to loosen and flip carefully onto a serving plate so the golden bottom faces up. If any of the potatoes are stuck to the bottom of the pan, scrape them off and return them to where they belong. (If you don’t feel up for the flipping, it is fine to serve the potatoes directly from the pan.) Slice into wedges and serve.