When contemplating what I wanted to make as my side dishes for Christmas this year to accompany the Beef Tenderloin, I saw a blog post about Mini Pommes Anna. It looked cute, so it got me thinking. What if I made those using the suggested Yukon Gold potatoes and then incorporated some sweet potatoes and the Fennel Pollen I had leftover from the recent Marx Foods / Foodie Blogroll Iron Foodie Challenge?
Traditionally, a Pommes Anna is made with firm potatoes sliced very thin, salt, pepper, and lots of butter. There is apparently even a copper baking pan made especially for a Pommes Anna, although in trolling for ideas, it looks like most people probably bake them in pie tins. You're supposed to spiral layers of potato in opposite directions, but in looking at that blog post about the minis, I'm not sure how that would have been possible - unless they used fingerling potatoes. I'm guessing they just stacked them, slightly offsetting each to form jagged edges. As for me, I used a jumbo muffin pan and lined the cups with layers of regular sized sweet potatoes and baby Yukon Gold.
It wasn't until just now - why do I always look things up AFTER doing them - that I read the traditional version is baked or fried, then inverted and baked or fried to crisp the bottom as well. I had to do a little re-dressing when I inverted mine, because what was now the top started to slide apart. I was thinking I had used too much butter, but apparently that's not possible. Whoever invented these must be Paula Deen's idol! Maybe next time, I'll sprinkle a little Parmesan between layers.
Firm fleshed potatoes
Fresh snipped chive or other herb for garnish
Using a very sharp knife or mandoline, slice the potatoes VERY thin. I had an elf helping me, so while I was slicing, she was running more through the mandoline. Toss with melted butter and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and fennel pollen or other seasoning if desired.
I opted to melt the butter, then stir in the salt, pepper, and fennel pollen and pour some over each bowl to toss. The problem was that as soon as it hit the potatoes - which weren't even cold - the butter immediately siezed up. Sooooo, I melted some more butter in a measuring cup, and when I came across a dry potato, I dunked it in the butter.
If you're using multi-colored potatoes, decide what color you want on top, then start lining your muffin cups with that color. When you invert it, that will be the top. I started with a layer of the Yukon, then spiraled the Sweet Potato in the opposite direction and worked my way up OVER the top - allowing for shrinkage. Much like if you're making Paklava with an odd sized package of phyllo, you might end up with low spots because of the way the potato slices nestle together. You can build up the low spots with any odd shaped pieces, or cut a few to size. I ended up with more bulk in the center because of the size of my particular potatoes/pan, so I cut about 1/3 off of some slices and layered those around the edge.
According to the blog post I was starting from, you are to bake them at 325, covered, for 20", then remove the cover and continue baking for another 15" until the edges start to brown. Mine took a little longer.
Now the question was - how to extract them from the pan? I first thought if I could scoop a little pickle fork or something down to the bottom, I could then get a little spatula under one and flip it onto the plate --- ya right! That first one had a major wardrobe malfunction, so that became my plate. I put a baking sheet over the top of the pan and flipped the whole thing, tapping the bottom of the muffin cups and hoping everything had released. Yay, they did - with just a little slippage as I mentioned at the beginning. My elf set the errant slices back into place and sprinkled on some fresh snipped chive while I was plating up the tenderloin and red wine sauce.
Will I make these again? Definitely. The minis again? Sure, why not? I may add some Parm next time and, if they hold together once inverted, I may put them back in to brown the bottoms per the original recipe back in Napoleon's day.
I like the idea of individual items on a plate for some reason, like mini Stuffed Artichokes, etc. I had originally contemplated making each person their own Chartreuse of Vegetables, but if you have ever made (or even seen) one of those, you would know that would have been crazy on Christmas Day. Although ... I suppose if I had planned it out well enough, I could have pre-molded them and just baked them that day. I still need to do that sometime - for laughs if nothing else.
Until then, eat your potatoes and enjoy!!