Who would guess that the humble potato—a vegetable that grows in dirt—could be transformed into a side dish that’s basically a work of art? The French is who. Meet pommes Anna, a classic Française recipe that requires little more than butter, salt and spuds once you grasp the technique.
This deceptively simple dish relies on a few secrets: For starters, you’ll want to use a well-seasoned skillet so the potatoes don’t stick. We prefer carbon steel because it holds heat like cast iron but has sloped sides and is easy to flip. (Non-stick would work too.) And a mandoline will give you uniform thin slices, essential for even cooking. A sharp chef’s knife will work in a pinch, but you’ll want to set aside some time for slicing and make sure your slices are as consistent as possible. Lastly, we call for a combination of butter and olive oil so nothing burns—traditionally, the French use clarified butter for richness, but we’re all about a shortcut. (Shhh.)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
Extra-virgin olive oil
3 large russet potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled
Fresh chopped chives, to garnish (optional)
1. In a 10-inch skillet (preferably cast iron or carbon steel), melt the butter over medium heat. Once it’s melted, turn off the heat while you prep the potatoes.
2. Using a mandoline, slice the potatoes thin enough that they’re pliable but not so thin that they’ll burn, about ⅛ inch thick. If you don’t have a mandoline, use a very sharp kitchen knife—the slices will be more rustic, but that’s OK as long as they are all the same thickness.
3. Arrange the potato slices tightly in the skillet, shingling them around the pan in concentric circles. Drizzle the first layer with olive oil and season with salt. Repeat this process two more times so you have three layers.
4. Return the heat to medium and cook the potatoes, uncovered, until the butter starts to sizzle, about 5 minutes. Cover the skillet and continue to cook for about 2 minutes more. (The steam will help all the layers cook.)
5. Remove the lid and shake the pan to see if the potatoes are sticking together—once they are, they’re ready to flip. (They should also smell toasty and look golden if you take a peek underneath.) To flip the potatoes, remove the skillet from the heat, place a plate over the skillet and carefully invert the skillet. Using a spatula, slide the flipped potatoes back into the skillet and return to the heat. Cook the other side until golden and crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a serving plate, season with salt and garnish with chives (if using). Slice into wedges before serving.