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Mandoline perfects ‘pommes Anna’

Preparing a potato-Gruyere tart came with a lesson for my son in new kitchen equipment.

My mandoline was the key to producing uniformly thin slices of spud for this dish, which only a very practiced hand could accomplish with a knife. But first, I emphasized safety precautions, putting the appropriate amount of fear into his 8-year-old mind with the image of mangled fingers, a dire consequence even for some chefs I’ve known.

Tentatively but in the end confidently, my son so enjoyed using the mandoline that I allowed him to slice more potatoes than we needed for the dish, mentioned this blog’s previous post. Now we need another recipe to use them up. A likely candidate is this classic“pommes Anna,” which would be a lovely accompaniment to poached fish or roast chicken, another of my son’s favorites.

Tribune News Service photo

Pommes Anna

2 1/2 pounds waxy potatoes, peeled

5 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Using a sharp knife or mandoline, slice the potatoes 1/8 inch thick. (Do not rinse or soak slices; starch is what binds layers.)

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat and cook, swirling pan, to get it to brown butter stage: First, butter will boil in large bubbles. Soon, bubbles will get smaller and butter will turn light brown and smell nutty. At this point, immediately remove from heat and pour into a bowl. (If you overcook butter, solids will burn and form black, acrid-tasting flakes. Throw it out and start again.)

Generously grease bottom of a shallow 10-inch ovenproof cast-iron pan with some brown butter. Cover bottom of pan with one-third of potato slices, arranging them in a slightly overlapping, circular pattern. Brush with one-third of remaining butter and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Make 2 more layers using remaining potatoes, butter and salt.

Set on stove over medium heat and cook, without disturbing, to initiate browning on bottom, for 10 minutes. Cover loosely with foil, transfer to preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake until potatoes are cooked through (a knife should pierce through easily) and top is browned and crusty, for 20 to 30 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes on counter.

Run a spatula around edges and underneath to loosen and flip carefully onto a serving plate so golden bottom faces up. If any potatoes are stuck to bottom of pan, scrape them off and return them to where they belong. (If you don’t feel up for flipping, it is fine to serve potatoes directly from pan.) Slice into wedges and serve.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Recipe from foodrepublic.com, by Clotilde Dusoulier.