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For the longest time, we have been making Pommes Anna. It’s a sophisticated French-y take on scalloped potatoes — and part of Julia Child’s repertoire — that makes for a fabulous presentation. It looks like a cake! Thinly mandolined slices of potato (believe me, you’ll need a mandolin) are laid out on a pan along with butter, finished in the oven and then turned out tarte Tatin-style. We follow the Julia’s recipe (with a few practical notes from us).
4 pounds boiling potatoes, thinly sliced
2 sticks butter, melted
Optional: a few springs of thyme!
Salt and pepper to taste
A touch of finely grated gruyère or parmigiano reggiano. (Our apologies to Julia but this helps with keeping the cake together.)
Blot the potatoes with a paper towel to remove some of the starch. Work fast, as the potato slices start to discolor quickly. No pressure! Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Clarify the butter (melt and let the white pieces move to the top). Using a basting bulb, squeeze the end of it in the clear butter — use only this, otherwise the potatoes will stick. In a 10-inch cast-iron skillet or other very heavy pan, put in 1/4 cup clarified butter, arrange potato slices around the pan, covering the bottom in a design. Salt and pepper the potato layers, pouring on a bit more butter. Then salt and pepper and arrange the two other layers. Continue layering the potatoes, butter, salt and pepper, until the potatoes are all used. Take a smaller pan with a flat bottom and press down to compress the potatoes into a cake. Put in the oven for 20 minutes. As a precaution, put something under the potatoes to catch any butter that may spatter. Remove from the oven and press down on the potatoes again. Return to the oven for 25 more minutes. Remove to compress the layers again. You can return for 5 more minutes or, if you need to bake something else in the oven, finish the potatoes over the burner on low, until the main dish is cooked. Invert onto plate and cut into wedges.