Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Potatoes Anna with Fresh Thyme and Truffle Salt

This NFL football season, I have the honor to personal chef for an amazing running back, Cedric Benson, of the Cincinnati Bengals. (And the bonus is that he is a very nice and chill man.) One of our favorite meals I made for him was a steak house meal: potatoes Anna with olive oil, fresh thyme, and black truffle salt; pan seared hanger steak; and creamed spinach. These potatoes Anna looked so spectacular and Cedric liked them so much, that I had to remake it for my household.

Potatoes Anna or pommes Anna, is a classic French dish of sliced, layered potatoes cooked in a very large amount of melted butter. Potatoes are peeled and sliced very thin. The slices, salted and peppered, are layered into a pan, generously doused with melted butter, and cooked until they form a cake. Then they are turned upside down every ten minutes until the outside is golden and crispy. At the end of the cooking period, the dish is unmoulded and forms a cake 6 to 8 inches in diameter and about 2 inches high. It is then cut in wedges and served immediately on a hot plate, usually accompanying roasted meats. Yum. Meat and potatoes.

I wanted to make it more modern and flavorful. First off, I leave the skin on. So much nutritional value, flavor and texture is in that skin. I think the skin adds to a great aesthetic, too. And why waste the time with peeling? Olive oil proves to be a smarter choice over butter: more flavor; poly unsaturated fats, more heart-healthy; and using a brush will keep amount of oil to a minimum. Inspired by the truffle fries at Senate Restaurant, which to me are more of thyme and truffle, I incorporated fresh thyme and my favorite black truffle salt into my potatoes Anna. I always praise fresh herbs and use in just about everything I make. If you could see my herb garden... I ask my neighbors to come over with a pair of scissors and help themselves. They always bring so much flavor and dimension to the party. I am convinced fresh herbs have nutritional and homeopathic benefits, too. (My personal opinion.) Do not be intimidated to make this! This recipe is a guideline. Use the target of a two inch thickness depending on the size of skillet you use. I used one of those single egg skillets, which was perfect 1-2 people. And it's so cute. It is simple. Yes, technical and a bit artsy. The payoff is rewarding. Try it.

  • Russet or Yukon Gold Potatoes (1 for tiny skillet, 2-3 for 6-8" pan) uniform in diameter, scrubbed
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil    
  • truffle salt, to taste   
  • white pepper, to taste
  • fresh thyme, leaves separated with no stem, to taste
  1. Select uniformly sized potatoes in the diameter. The appearance of this dish is important, so the slices should be neat and even. (Do not used red potatoes. They have more sugar and will burn.)
  2. Cut into thin slices. I used a mandolin, cut into 1/8" thickness. Put into well salted, cold water. This prevents them from turning brown and removes excess starch so they will not be gummy.
  3. Put the olive olive into a small cup and have a brush ready. Set up the truffle salt, white pepper, and thyme leaves.
  4. Use a thick skillet/fry pan, or even better, a cast iron skillet. The skillet must be well seasoned or non-stick, so the potatoes will not stick. Brush olive oil on the bottom and walls of the skillet.
  5. Drain the potatoes and dry them well. Blot with paper towels. Select the most uniform slices for the bottom layer. Arrange the slices in circles in the bottom of the pan. Shingle the slices and reverse the direction of each circle. Brush the layer sparingly with olive oil, and season lightly with truffle salt, white pepper and sprinkle a small amount of thyme leaves over it.
  6. Continue making layers, oiling and seasoning each layer, until the thickness is 2 inches or the potatoes are used up. The potatoes will be mounded over the top of the pan, but they will compress as they cook. I put a weight on top, such a pan that has some heft to it.
  7. Place the pan over a low to medium burner.
  8. Cook for about 20 minutes. Test for doneness by piercing center with a toothpick.
  9. Carefully invert the potato cake onto a flat baking sheet or cutting board. The potatoes should have stayed intact in a round cake, but if any slices fall off, put them back in place. Set the potatoes back in the skillet, browned side up, and return to a medium heat for an additional 10 minutes.
  10. Slide onto platter, garnish with a sprinkling of thyme, truffle salt, and white pepper. Cut into wedges for enjoy.

This is part of Food Network's Fall Fest, highlighting the produce that is in season. Check out The FN Dish. The seasonal produce we are focusing on the humble potato! Here are other delicious features on potatoes:

What's Gaby Cooking: Smashed Potatoes
From My Corner of Saratoga: Potato Canapes
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Chorizo and Potato Tacos
Cooking With Elise: The Irish Boxty

-Erin Swing
The Sensitive Epicure


SunnyB @ andloveittoo said...

This looks positively delicious.


Unknown said...

This looks beautiful! I will definitely try this out!