Julia Child’s Pommes Anna or as I like to call it…TATER PIE!
One would think with so few ingredients, this would be so easy! WRONG. I should take you back to where you begin to understand my love of Julia Child and my complete terror at the thought of trying to make one of her recipes.
I grew up in a home where cooking wasn’t a thing, our Thanksgiving and Christmas meals were purchased from this lady who is an AMAZING cook and she creates meals for people in the area and pay her (way to little) and she would stop by our home and drop off the turkey and dressing and mashed potatoes, you are getting the picture here. I went in the military and was exposed to so many different cuisines that I really began to love the food I consumed and in my mid 30s I decided I wanted to be able to make my own food. Enter the movie Julie and Julia, I was OBSESSED. This woman started a blog, hey I want to start a blog, her blog is about cooking Julia Child’s food, hey I want to be able to make Julia Child’s food, and I was honestly moved. I asked my husband for the Julia Child cookbooks (Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 1 and 2) for Christmas and he got them for me. I started reading the first volume and instantly became overwhelmed. I learned so much and at the same time I learned that her cook books have to be looked at like a novel, because there is SO MUCH to learn in the book and if she says something like milk bubbling she will explain what she means by bubbling and why she wants it that way. Seriously these books are incredible, but that much data is scary because you can look at one recipe and get directions to multiple different pages to read a base of how to make “x” “y” or “z” which is incredible but wow. ANYHOO this last weekend I figured I would tackle Pommes Anna. It looks like a crispy cake of potatoes. You have to cut the potatoes to a certain width and clarify butter (WHO KNEW BUTTER WAS THAT YELLOW)
OK now how to make this beautiful dish (which I have renamed to tater pie to make it seem less daunting in my brain). First step, take a deep breath and don’t get overwhelmed. It is easier than it looks, I pinky promise. You just need waxing potatoes, clarified butter and a cast iron skillet, that last must have is a must have. Go get you one if you don’t already have one, we like the Lodge brand of cast iron.
To clarify butter :
Go watch this video. Seriously, watch it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rt4eoqdXQdk
Peal the potatoes and slice them all to where they are about 1/8in thick. Yes Julia says to do this, and it is important to cut the potatoes to as close as a same width as possible because it makes everything cook evenly and you also need the slices to be even when building this beautiful potato cake. DO NOT RINSE these potatoes but do dry them. I took paper towels and placed each slice on top of the towel and then took another paper towel and blotted the potatoes off of any liquid and placed them on a plate until I got done cutting all the potatoes.
After cutting the potatoes and getting your butter clarified, go get your oven going to 450 degrees (HOT I know!). Once you have the oven on its way to heating up well, take about 1/4th of your clarified butter and put it into your cast iron skillet that has been heated to a medium level of heat. I took a basting brush and found it to be very helpful. Take the butter and make sure it is spread out well over the bottom of the pan as well as on the sides, then place ONE potato slice in the center. I picked the prettiest potato slice I could find. Next make a loop of potato slices clockwise around and all covering the center slice. Once you have a good foundation in the first loop, continue going clockwise and counter clockwise and push all the way to the edge of the pan. Make sure you shake the skillet to ensure your potatoes aren’t sticking, do this step of shaking the skillet at each layer. Make sure you have 100% coverage of the skillet before you start building the next layer of potatoes. Each new layer you build, make sure you continue to go clockwise then counter clockwise as you build your way to being done with your potato slices. Butter and season each layer (and shake the skillet) until you get to the top or run out of potatoes. THEN comes the shockingly strange. Take a pan that will fit inside the skillet and butter it, ON THE BOTTOM of the pan. THEN Stick it onto of your layers of potatoes and squish. After you squished your taters (this sounds so French doesn’t it) then stick your skillet in the preheated oven (onto the second rack space in your oven and place a cookie sheet on the rack under the skillet just incase any butter bubbles over, you don’t want that in your oven) with a lid onto of the potatoes and bake for 20 minutes. At the 20 minute point, pull the skillet out of the oven and remove the lid. Next take that same pan that you squished your taters with and SQUISH ‘EM AGAIN! Why??!?! I DON’T KNOW but Julia said to do it so we do it! Jiggle them taters again and stick them back in the oven , this time without the lid, for another 20 to 25 minutes. After this time is up, test the taters with a fork or a tooth pick to ensure these disk of carbs are done. THEN get a plate that you have buttered and warmed. and place it onto of the open skillet and flip the skillet and out comes the tater pie, ahem, POMMES ANNA. I know it is a lot of steps to read but I promise it was that “easy” and you should honestly give it a go. We loved it and plan on making it again but adding different things to the layers like maybe ground meat, some cheese and onions.
BON APPETITE…..Which may or may not be French for COME AND GET YOUR TATERS.