One of the first Julia Child recipes I attempted was Pommes Anna, a French name for what is basically one of the best combinations ever: butter and potatoes.
I learned early on (as we all do) that smearing butter inside hot, fluffy baked potatoes is a really good idea, but it wasn’t until I tried this recipe that I realized the power of simple food alchemy. It doesn’t always take a laundry list of ingredients and complicated tricks to cook something unforgettably delicious.
The recipe calls for nothing more than thinly sliced potatoes (best done with a mandoline or very sharp knife), melted butter and some salt; the end result are creamy, tender potatoes sandwiched between layers of crisp, buttery potato chips.
A seasoned cast iron skillet is ideal, but a heavy nonstick skillet will work too.
Buttery Skillet Potato Cake
Makes 4 servings
4 Yukon Gold potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds)
6 tablespoons melted butter
Peel the potatoes (I like to leave a bit of skin on here and there) and slice into approximately 1/8-inch rounds, using a mandoline or a sharp knife.
If you end up with some slices that are not uniform, put them aside for another use.
Toss the potatoes in a large bowl with 2 tablespoons of the butter to coat.
Put a heavy 8-inch skillet (seasoned cast iron or nonstick) over medium-high heat and let it heat. When the pan is hot (but not smoking – adjust heat if it gets too hot), brush it with butter and make your first layer of potatoes: starting from the center, make a circle of overlapping slices on the bottom of the pan in a clockwise direction, then drizzle with a little butter and sprinkle with some salt.
Repeat making layers of potatoes and butter, alternating direction from clockwise to counter-clockwise, until you use all the potatoes. Pour any remaining butter over the top and press down on the potatoes to compact.
Cook about 15 minutes; until the potatoes begin to release from the sides of the pan, and the bottom layer is crisp and dark brown – you can gently peek with a spatula to see the color and check that the slices are not sticking.
When the bottom is brown, run a spatula around the edges of pan; carefully unmold potatoes onto a large plate (or flat baking sheet) by covering the pan with the plate and flipping it over.
Slide the cake back into the pan (push any potato pieces back into place if they’ve slipped out) and cook another 10 minutes to crisp on the other side.
Slice into wedges and serve right away.
potato, side dish, skillet
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