The recipe calls for firm-fleshed potatoes and butter only. Potatoes are peeled and sliced very thin. The slices, salted and peppered, are layered into a pan, generously doused with clarified butter, and baked/fried until they form a cake. Then they are turned upside down every ten minutes until the outside is golden and crispy. At the end of the cooking period, the dish is un-molded and forms a cake 6 to 8 inches in diameter and about 2 inches high. It is then cut in wedges and served immediately on a hot plate, usually accompanying roasted meats.
A special double baking dish made of copper called la cocotte à pommes Anna is still manufactured in France for the cooking of this dish. It consists of upper and lower halves which fit into each other so that the whole vessel with its contents can be inverted during cooking.
The dish is generally credited with having been created during the time of Napoleon III by the chef Adolphe Dugléré, a pupil of Carême, when Dugléré was head chef at the Café Anglais, the leading Paris restaurant of the 19th century, where he reputedly named the dish for one of the grandes cocottes of the period.
In this recreation we are making mini versions of this famous potato dish. A muffin tin and foil will suffice for the special pan. A mandolin slicer to get even 1/8 inch slices is a must, but the cheaper plastic vegetable slicer will do.
- Use a whole stick or more of salted cultured butter
- 1 1/2 – 2 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes
- coarse sea Salt and fresh black pepper
- Fresh thyme
- Small clove garlic, pressed and minced (optional)
- A muffin tin
- A baking sheet
- Preheat your oven to 350°F degrees.
- Melt the butter in a small saucepan and strip a good 2 or even 3 Tbsp. of Thyme into the melted butter. If you’ve opted for garlic, toss it in there as well.
- Wash and slice your potatoes. I sliced them using a plastic mandolin that was given to me as a gift. It’s crazy cheap, but it works brilliantly.
- Toss the sliced potatoes into a bowl, drizzle half the herb butter mixture in, and season generously with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. Get down and dirty with your potatoes. Mix thoroughly to coat everything with the herb butter.
- You saved half of the herb butter so you could grease your muffin tin. Do so now. Generously. If you have a non-stick muffin tin, this is an excellent time to use it. You can try this with paper muffin cups if you want (I tried a few and wasn’t impressed), but if you’re generous with the butter you probably won’t have too much trouble with sticking.
- Lay a large piece of thyme in the center of each muffin cup and start layering your potatoes in a roughly circular manner, building up a tower of potato slices that spires a little bit above the fill line. These potato towers will fall a bit as they cook, so give them a little extra height — just make sure they are as tight and compact as possible.
- Cover the muffin tin with aluminum foil and pop into the oven. Set a timer for 30 minutes. Might as well clean up the mess you’ve made while this cooks.
- After 30 minutes, carefully remove the foil. Using a cake spatula or a butter knife and tongs, carefully lift out each Anna, move it over to your baking sheet, and carefully turn it over so that the thyme leaf you initially placed on the bottom is now on the top. If you have leftover herb butter and aren’t counting calories, you could drizzle that on these potato stacks at this time. Oh-so-carefully slide the baking sheet back into the oven and crank up the heat to 450°F degrees. (Don’t cover them this time; you want them to crisp up well.)
- After about 15 minutes, your L’il Pomme Annas will probably be ready. You don’t want them to burn, but you do want some crispness on the top and sides. Once you remove them from the oven, you can serve them immediately or let them cool.
- Makes 12 L’il Pomme Annas