Pommes Anna is a French side dish made of just three simple ingredients: potatoes, butter, and salt. It’s classic and elegant all at the same time; potato slices are arranged in overlapping concentric circles, creating layers upon layers into a round cake that resembles a flower. The outside is golden-brown and crispy — like the fanciest hash browns you’ll ever have — and makes a satisfying crunch when you slice it into wedges. It really goes with anything you’d serve potatoes with (read: pretty much anything).
There are lots of recipes out there for pommes Anna, most of which are fairly complicated. Here, I’ll show you how to make it at home with everyday ingredients and equipment.
The Origins of Pommes Anna
Pommes Anna is a very classic French potato cake — one served mainly at restaurants because it is technique-heavy, and a side dish taught at culinary school. It was created in the era of Napoleon III and named after one of the grandes cocottes (courtesans) of that time, although which specific Anna is up for debate. Colorful history aside, it’s absolutely delicious and actually something you can make at home without a lot of effort.
The 3 Ingredients You’ll Need for Pommes Anna
- Potatoes: Pommes Anna recipes seem pretty evenly split in calling for russet or Yukon Gold potatoes. Some sources point to the extra starch in russets, which helps hold the potato cake together. Others prefer Yukon Golds because they hold their shape and bake up tender and creamy. I’m firmly in the Yukon Gold camp, because I love the flavor and the fact that the potato cake doesn’t fall apart.
- Butter: Because butter is the only fat and main flavor in pommes Anna, many recipes call for clarified butter because it doesn’t contain milk solids, which can burn easily. But I’ve found that if you cook the dish in the oven, regular butter works just fine. I suggest using your favorite unsalted butter so you can control the amount of salt.
- Salt: A pommes Anna has to be really well-seasoned to be flavorful, and kosher salt is easy to sprinkle on evenly. Sprinkle it into the pan and on each layer of potatoes as you build the potato cake.
The Best Pan for Pommes Anna
The best moment when making pommes Anna comes when you flip it out of the pan to reveal the dish in all its golden-brown glory. Using the right pan is key so that it slides out easily and stays intact.
Historically, a special pommes Anna pan made out of copper called cocotte Anna was used, but it’s expensive, hard to find, and even Julia Child said it still had a tendency to stick. I’ve tried making pommes Anna in a cast iron skillet, but found that even my well-seasoned pan stuck to the potatoes in a few spots. I prefer using a 10-inch nonstick oven-safe frying pan instead, as it heats up more quickly and evenly than a cast iron skillet and guarantees an easy release.
How to Arrange Pommes Anna
Once you have all the ingredients and the right pan, it’s time to start layering. Start by brushing the pan and some foil with melted butter, then season the pan with salt. That might seem silly, but that salt will season the bottom of the first layer of potatoes. Peel and slice the potatoes very thinly (a mandoline is the best tool for this), then arrange the first layer of potatoes in the pan, starting in the center and working your way out. You’ll make concentric circles of potatoes, with each potato overlapping the previous one halfway. Brush the potatoes with more butter, season with salt, and then continue building three more layers.
The key to creating an even potato cake is alternating the starting point of each layer. Start in the center for the first layer, then start on the outside for the second layer, and so on and so forth.
How to Bake Pommes Anna
Lots of recipes start the pommes Anna on the stove to jumpstart the cooking and browning before it goes into the oven. This sounds good in theory, but in practice it can be a bit tricky because stoves and heat levels can vary so much, and it’s hard to peek under the layered potatoes to see what’s happening without disturbing the pattern. To avoid all of that, I found an easier way.
The easiest way to cook pommes Anna is to put the skillet directly in the oven. But before you do that, you need to put a piece of buttered foil on top of the potatoes, then top with a pie plate or cake pan that’s filled with pie weights. This compresses the potato cake so that it has lots of contact with the pan, allowing it both to brown evenly and stay together when sliced. Weigh it down for the first 25 minutes of baking, then take off the foil and weights for the last 20 minutes. Finally, fire up the broiler for a few minutes to get the top browned and crunchy.
When the pommes Anna is browned and beautiful, it’s time to unmold (no need to let it cool — you’ll want to serve this hot!). Gently shake the skillet back and forth to make sure the potato cake slides around easily. If it doesn’t, loosen the sides with a thin knife and slide a wide, flat spatula underneath to make sure it’s not stuck to the bottom. Using oven mitts to protect your hands, place a cutting board on top of the skillet, then flip the skillet and cutting board over in one motion before removing the skillet. Violà! Now you have a beautiful, crispy-on-the-outside, creamy-soft-on-the-inside pommes Anna. Cut the potato cake into wedges — it’ll slice easily and the wedges will hold together so that you can easily transfer them onto a serving platter.
How to Make Classic Pommes Anna
YieldServes 4 to 6
Prep time 20 minutes
Cook time 45 minutes
- 2 pounds
medium or large Yukon Gold potatoes (about 7 medium or 4 large)
- 3 tablespoons
- 1 1/4 teaspoons
kosher salt, divided
Chef’s knife and cutting board
10-inch nonstick frying pan
Heat the oven. Arrange a rack in the top third of the oven and heat the oven to 425ºF.
Peel and slice the potatoes. Peel 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes. Cut crosswise into 1/8-inch thick rounds with a mandoline or with a sharp knife. Divide the slices into 4 equal piles.
Grease the pan and foil. Melt 3 tablespoons unsalted butter in the microwave, about 30 seconds on high. (Alternatively, melt on the stovetop.) Brush the bottom and sides of an oven-safe 10-inch nonstick frying pan with 1 tablespoon of the butter and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon of the kosher salt. Brush a thin layer of butter onto a sheet of aluminum foil big enough to cover the pan.
Build the first layer. Starting in the center and overlapping the slices by about half, arrange one pile of the slices in a spiral pattern, making sure the bottom is completely and evenly covered. Use smaller slices in the center and larger slices on the edges. Brush with 1/2 tablespoon of the melted butter and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon of the kosher salt.
Build the second layer. This time working your way from the outside in to the center (again using the larger slices on the edges), arrange the second pile of potato slices to build the second layer. Brush with 1/2 tablespoon of the butter and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon of the kosher salt.
Build the last two layers. Repeat arranging the third layer, working from the inside out, then buttering and seasoning. Build the fourth and final layer of potatoes from the outside in. Brush all the remaining butter onto the top layer and season with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt.
Press and bake for 25 minutes. Place the foil butter-side down onto the potatoes, then weigh down the foil by topping it with a 9-inch cake pan or pie plate. Fill the cake pan or pie plate with pie weights. Bake for 25 minutes.
Uncover and finish baking. Remove the weights and foil. Bake uncovered until knife-tender and the bottom is golden brown, about 20 minutes more.
Broil the top. Turn the oven to broil on high. Broil until the top is golden brown, about 5 minutes.
Unmold and serve. Gently shake the pan to see if the potato cake slides around easily. If it doesn’t, run a thin knife around the edges and slide the spatula underneath the potato cake to loosen. Invert a cutting board over the pan. Grasping both the board and the pan (careful, hot!), flip over and remove the pan. Cut the potato cake into wedges.
Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 4 days.