With my Irish heritage my favorite food group is potatoes! When I am in a bad mood, my husband brings me French fries, potato chips, or a baked potato. It doesn’t really matter because all of them put a smile on my face. I’ve never met a potato dish that I didn’t love. Today’s recipe is no exception. A cross between a classic Pommes Anna and Potatoes au Gratin, this is one of my favorite go-to recipes when I have guests coming to dinner. Everyone loves well-seasoned creamy potatoes served steaming hot!
One of the tricks to making this is to slice the potatoes as thinly as possible. I love my food processor for this. It does the whole batch of potatoes in seconds. You’ll be done so quickly that the potatoes don’t have a chance to darken. Slice the onions first, transfer to a bowl, and then slice the potatoes. If you don’t have a food processor you can also use a very sharp knife or a mandoline. If you can afford it, I would recommend you get the food processor. The amount of time you save when making a dish like this more than offsets the cost. Plus it is wonderful for making pizza dough or pie dough as well as a myriad of other tasks.
You can use any herbs you like, or a combination of a couple. Don’t put in too many or you will lose the essence of the dish – the simple pleasure of the potatoes themselves. Rosemary, oregano, basil, and dill are all great alternatives. If your family doesn’t like onions, leave them out or replace them with shaved shallots. Customize this to your taste and you’ll be making it for years to come.
When you are planning a party or a major event like Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, the beauty of a dish like this is that it can be made a day or two in advance and reheated before serving. This frees up your day to focus on the more challenging aspects of the event. I think the flavors improve with some resting time and love to make extra just so I have leftovers to eat for the next day or two! It is much easier to make than mashed potatoes and just as satisfying!
Classic pommes Anna is made in an ovenproof skillet or baking pan, overlapping the potato slices in concentric circles, and baked until tender, then inverted onto a plate to serve. You can make this recipe using that technique, just leave out the cream because that makes it too loose to invert. I like the added flavor, so I make it in a 9×13-inch baking pan and scoop out servings with a spoon. If you decide to make it the classic way, use a cast iron skillet for a perfectly browned presentation and be careful with your first layer of potatoes. Remember that the bottom of the pan will be the top of your inverted potato cake!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
A food processor makes very quick work of slicing and the thickness is determined by the amount of pressure use exert on the pusher. The lighter the pressure, the thinner the slice. Using a mandoline allows you to have much finer control over the thickness of your slices. If perfection is your goal, use the mandoline.
Kitchen Skill: Stripping Sprigs of Herbs
Why: To get the leaves off the stems quickly and easily.
How: After rinsing well and patting dry with paper towels, hold the stem at the top and pinching your thumb and forefinger of the opposite hand together around the stem, pull downward, opposite the direction the leaves grow. The leaves will come right off. Discard any stems that are too thick. Then if the leaves are large, mince with a very sharp knife. You can strip and entire bunch of thyme in no time, LOL!
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed
- 1 bunch fresh thyme
- 1 large white or yellow onion, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
- 3 lb Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes
- 4 oz butter, melted
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter a 9x13x2-inch baking pan.
- Heat the cream and garlic together with several sprigs of thyme in a small saucepan over medium heat until steaming, but do not let boil. Stir in a pinch of salt. Remove from the heat and let steep while you layer the potatoes and onions.
- Meanwhile, if you are using Russet potatoes, peel them. The Yukons do not need to be peeled. Using a mandoline, food processor, or very sharp knife, slice the potatoes as thin as you can and slice the onions the same thickness. There is no need to put the potatoes in water.
- Strip the leaves off of about 4 to 5 sprigs of thyme, depending on how much herb flavor you want in your dish.
- Start layering the potatoes in the buttered pan, completely covering the bottom. Sprinkle with some of the thyme leaves, salt, and pepper. Top with some of the onions and drizzle with a little of the butter. Repeat layers until you have used all the potatoes and onions. If there is any butter left, drizzle it over the top.
- Strain the cream, discarding the solids. Pour the infused cream over the top of the potatoes. Place in the hot oven and bake until potatoes are tender and golden brown on top, 30 to 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for at least 15 minutes before serving. This lets the potatoes set up and makes serving them easier.
- Yield: about 8 servings