Pommes Anna

1/2 lb unsalted butter
3 lbs of potatoes
salt, pepper 

  • Preheat oven to 450°F.
  • Set one rack in very bottom level, and another just above it.
  • Clarify the butter: melt it, skim off scum, and spoon the clear liquid butter off the milky residue.
  • Peel the potatoes, trim into cylinders to have uniform slices. Do not wash potatoes after peeling.
  • Slice cylinders into even rounds 1/8 inch thick (about 8 cups).
  • Dry thoroughly in paper towels.
  • Pour 1/4 inch of clarified butter into the pan and set over moderate heat.
  • When hot, start rapidly arranging the first layer of potatoes in the bottom of the pan.
  • Starting with one potato slice at the center of the pan, overlap a circle of potato slices around it.
  • Overlapping in the other direction, arrange a second circle around the first, and so on until you reach the edge of the pan.
  • Pour on a spoonful of clarified butter, salt and pepper.
  • Starting at the circumference of pan and reversing direction again, arrange another layer of potato all the way to the center.
  • Continue filling the pan in that fashion, filling completely and allowing the potatoes to form a 1/4 to 1/2 inch dome in the center.
  • You should have enough butter so that it bubbles up the sides of the pan.
  • Butter the bottom of a heavy saucepan and press it hard on the potatoes, forcing the layers together.
  • Butter the underside of a cover, place it on the pan of potatoes and cook in the oven for 20 minutes.  Put a pan under the potato pan to catch any dripping butter.
  • After 20 minutes, uncover, press the potatoes down hard again and continue baking 20 to 25 minutes more, uncovered.
  • Press down hard again just before the end of cooking.
  • Gently draw an edge of the potatoes  away from side of dish to verify that it is brown and crusty. Bake more if necessary.
  • Drain out excess butter.
  • Shake pan gently to make sure potatoes are not stuck to bottom, run a spatula gently to loosen them if necessary.
  • Invert a serving dish over the potato pan, reverse the two, and potatoes will fall into the dish.
  • They should look like a brown cake.
  • To keep the cake for at least half hour before serving time, cover loosely with foil and set in 120°F oven.