L’il Pomme Anna

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Are you ready to impress the heck out of your dinner party guests? Stand one of these L’il Pomme Annas on your guests’ plates next to a slab of braised short ribs and watch them ooh and coo about how cute — and delicious — they are. It’s a very simple deconstruction of that classic casserole potato dish Pomme Anna, but with a single-serve attitude.

A quick note about fat: I’m a fan of any kind of potato that’s baked in the oven, but I don’t always need my potato side dishes to be flush with fat. Scalloped potatoes contain butter and cream, au gratin potatoes contain butter and cream and cheese, but their less sloppy sister Anna is just butter, salt and pepper, and fresh thyme. And, the amount of butter you use is really up to you. When I make this, I probably only use 4-6 Tbsp. of butter and save the rest. (Herb butter comes in handy!)

Step 1: Get your act together

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Your supporting players will be:

6-8 Tbsp. of butter
1 1/2 – 2 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes
Salt and pepper
Fresh thyme
Small clove garlic, minced (optional)
A muffin tin
A baking sheet

A note about substitutions: The French will never forgive you if you don’t make this according to my strict interpretation. Nah, not really, but I definitely recommend using small Yukon Gold potatoes. They’re the right size. Not as creamy as a Idaho spud, but they’ll hold together a bit more, which is important for this dish. But I do very strongly suggest you use fresh thyme. It makes a difference; thyme is a true partner in this recipe.

Step 2: Prep Time

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Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan and strip a good 2 or even 3 Tbsp. of Thyme into the melted butter. If you’ve opted for garlic, toss it in there as well.

Slice your potatoes. (You can peel them if you’re up for it and want to be a perfectionist.) I sliced them lickety-split using a plastic mandoline that was given to me as a gift. It’s crazy cheap, but it works brilliantly. If you don’t have one, think seriously about getting one while you painstakingly slice your potatoes as thin as you can by hand (think potato chip thin). If you get desperate, dig up your vegetable peeler and try that.

Toss the sliced potatoes into a bowl, drizzle half the herb butter mixture in, and season generously with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. Get down and dirty with your potatoes. Mix thoroughly to coat everything with the herb butter.

Step 3: Power Load

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You saved half of the herb butter so you could grease your muffin tin. Do so now. Generously. If you have a non-stick muffin tin, this is an excellent time to use it. You can try this with paper muffin cups if you want (I tried a few and wasn’t impressed), but if you’re generous with the butter you probably won’t have too much trouble with sticking.

Lay a large piece of thyme in the center of each muffin-settin’ spot and start layering your potatoes in a roughly circular manner, building up a tower of potato slices that spires a little bit above the fill line. These potato towers will fall a bit as they cook, so give them a little extra height — just make sure they are as tight and compact as possible.

Cover the muffin tin with aluminum foil and pop into the oven. Set a timer for 30 minutes. Might as well clean up the mess you’ve made while this cooks.

Step 4: Flip and Crank

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After 30 minutes, carefully remove the foil. Using a cake spatula or a butter knife and tongs, carefully lift out each Anna, move it over to your baking sheet, and carefully turn it over so that the thyme leaf you initially placed on the bottom is now on the top. If you have leftover herb butter and aren’t counting calories, you could drizzle that on these potato stacks at this time. Oh-so-carefully slide the baking sheet back into the oven and crank up the heat to 450 degrees. (Don’t cover them this time; you want them to crisp up nice and good.)

Step 5: Plate and Enjoy

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After about 15 minutes, your L’il Pomme Annas will probably be ready. You don’t want them to burn, but you do want some crispness on the top and sides. Once you remove them from the oven, you can serve them immediately or let them cool. They’ll be tasty whether they’re hot or cold.

Makes 12 L’il Pomme Annas, but the cook can always claim to hungry guests that sadly, one of them fell on the floor. Which is why there’s only 11. Burp.