Pommes Anna is a famous French preparation of white potatoes, borne in the mid 19th century. The story goes that the dish was named after Anna Deslions, a well-known Parisian courtesan, who frequented Café Anglais where chef Adolphe Dugléré invented the dish to honor her (and the wealthy clientele that she brought into the popular restaurant).
The idea of naming food after celebrities appears to be a time-honored tradition. Some examples: Beef Wellington was named after the Duke of Wellington (in celebration of his victory during the Battle of Waterloo in 1815), Pizza Margherita was named after Queen Margherita, Beef Carpaccio is named in honor of painter Vittore Carpaccio (who worked with vibrant reds), and who could forget the Arnold Palmer?
At other times, the food itself turns folks into celebrities: Caesar salad is not named after Julius Caesar but Caesar Cardini, an Italian immigrant who invented the salad in 1924 while living in Tijuana, Mexico; and nachos are purportedly the invention of Ignacio Anaya, a boy who in 1943 whipped up the dish to feed some hungry soldiers in Piedras Negras, Mexico.
Potatoes Anna (Gluten-free, Paleo, Primal, Perfect Health Diet, Whole30 friendly)
2.5 lbs white potatoes, peeled (about 6 medium-sized russets)
5 tbsp melted ghee, divided
1 tsp salt, more to taste
1. Using a mandoline slicer, slice the potatoes very thin, less than 1/4″, then pat dry. Do not rinse or submerge the potatoes in water – while intuition would have you rinse the excess starch from your potatoes (common when preparing fries or hash browns), the starch is a necessary component of getting the potatoes to bind together and make a potato “cake”.
2. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat, then pour in 2 tbsp of the melted ghee. Being careful not to burn yourself, layer the potatoes in a circular pattern starting from the center, overlapping the potatoes, until you have made one layer. Drizzle or brush 1 tbsp of the ghee over the potato layer, then sprinkle with a bit of salt; then repeat with two more layers – add the potatoes, brush/drizzle the ghee, sprinkle some salt.
3. After layering, keep the skillet over medium heat for another 5-10 minutes (you want the bottom layer of potatoes to be under the heat for 15 minutes, so it’ll depend on how quickly you add the other two layers). This step helps you achieve a crispy bottom. As the skillet heats, preheat your oven to 350F.
4. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until golden, about one hour. Let cool for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cutting board using a spatula and slice into wedges before serving.
** This is the basic recipe, but feel to add a number of spices: a pinch of nutmeg, some black pepper, dried parsley, and grated parmesan are all common additions.
Pommes Anna can be made ahead of time. Let the finished product cool completely, then cover in tin foil; reheat the potatoes (tin foil and all) in a 350F oven.