Spud Sunday: Spud’s Best Mate

No one could possibly dispute the versatility of the spud. Whether occupying its resident spot in the meat-and-two-veg setting, operating in a soup or curry, appearing as chips, gratin, roasties or in any number of other incarnations. It can absorb and complement the flavours around it and round out that serving of dinner. However, there’s one thing, above all else, that lets the potato shine in its own right, one thing that was made to go with potatoes, to bring out its essential spudness, and that, my friends, is butter. (I can also say, without the remotest trace of bias, that, as Chef E observed lately, Ireland’s own Kerrygold really is a particularly good example of butter at its best.)

kerrygold butter

The best friend a potato could have

Think about it. Potatoes mashed with butter, baby new potatoes, steamed and dripping with melting butter, baked jacket potatoes moistened with butter, potatoes sliced and fried in butter. Other than a dash of salt, you don’t really need to invite anyone else to the spud-and-butter party.

So, you can imagine that I read the following recipe for “Crusty Potatoes Anna” with interest. It comes from What Einstein Told His Cook by Robert L. Wolke, a very readable guide to kitchen science, and which I first came across on The Hungry Engineer. The recipe involves only spuds, butter, salt and pepper, but….

You start with something like this:

potatoes anna before

…and end up with something like this:

potatoes anna

Need I say more? Well maybe just a few words. The recipe involves (and was designed to demonstrate the use of) clarified butter. Clarified butter is essentially butter minus the milk solids, pure butter fat in other words. The significance of using clarified butter here is that it has a higher smoke point than regular butter (and it’s easy to clarify – if you haven’t had occasion to do this before, see the notes at the end of the post). So you can have these babies baking and developing their crusty base in a very hot oven without the smokiness that might otherwise ensue. Now that’s what I’d call a result.

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Crusty Potatoes Anna

You’ll need:
  • 4 medium potatoes, around 800g or so – the original recipe recommends Yukon Golds but use any nice baking potato
  • 2-4 tblsps clarified butter, melted
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
You’ll also need:
  • A heavy, preferably cast-iron, pan, around 24cm diameter, that has a lid and can be used both on the stove-top and in the oven
  • A plate or serving dish that is wider than the pan.
The Steps:
  • Preheat the oven to 230C
  • Wash the potatoes and pat dry. If you like, you can peel the potatoes for this dish or just leave the skins on (which I prefer). Cut the potatoes into slices, about 1/8 of an inch thick.
  • Butter the pan generously with some of the melted clarified butter.
  • Arrange a single layer of potato slices on the base of the pan in a circular or spiral pattern, starting at the middle of the pan and working outward with overlapping slices.
  • Brush this layer with more clarified butter and sprinkle with some salt and pepper.
  • Continue building layers, buttering and seasoning each layer as above.
  • When you have used up all of the slices, brush the final layer with any remaining butter.
  • On the stovetop, bring the potatoes to a sizzle over a medium-high heat. Cover with a lid and place in the oven to bake for about 25 minutes. Then remove the lid and bake for about 5 minutes more, or until the potatoes are tender when tested with a fork or toothpick. The base, meanwhile, should have a light crust, visible if you lift it up with a knife or fork. If not, bake for a few minutes more.
  • Once done, give the pan a good shake to loosen any bits that may be stuck to the bottom. You may need to slide a metal spatula or fish slice underneath to help with loosening. Then, cover the pan with the serving plate, hold the plate in place and invert the pan, so that the potatoes come out crusty side up.
  • Serve with anything that can use a good side of spuds. I had some with a fried egg. You could add a steak or chop to that, if you were that way inclined.
The Portions:
  • This makes about 4 good-sized portions
The Variations:
  • Well now, if you were to replace those sprinklings of coarse salt on each layer with generous dustings of finely grated parmesan, that would be just lovely.
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Clarified Butter

You’ll need:
  • Butter, however much you want to clarify; 100g of regular butter should yield around 75g of the clarified stuff
The Steps:
  • Melt the butter slowly over a very low heat, taking care that it does not scorch.
  • Once left to settle, the melted butter will separate into 3 layers: a froth or foam on top, the liquid butter fat in the middle and the watery milk solids at the bottom. There are a few different ways of extracting that middle layer:
  • Skim off any foam and then carefully spoon off the liquid butter, or…
  • Pour the melted butter into a gravy separator. Let it settle, then skim off any foam and pour off the watery mixture from the bottom, or…
  • Refrigerate the melted butter and allow it to solidify, after which you can scrape any solidified foam from the top and lift the butter fat away from the bottom layer of milk solids.
Comments
  • Ohhhh, I love Pommes Anna! I’ve never seen Kerry gold before, but I saw it on Chef E’s site too and was intrigued.

  • I love the before and after shot. I had a friend whose husband was training to be a chef, and he used to make her Pommes Anna because her name was Anna. I’ve always wanted to make it since then, but haven’t…but that golden roasty photo might change that. I even have some Kerrygold in the fridge…

  • I love Kerry Gold…its not so easy to get in San Francisco, but here in London even the local corner store seems to have it! Butter + Potatoes + Salt any day of the week for me!

  • I could live on Kerrygold and brown bread alone but I can make some room for these taters.

  • Great recipe for Pommes Anna! We love Kerrygold butter since our trip to Ireland last summer, that’s the only real butter we use.

  • Just beautiful! I love how simple it is, the best way to eat potatoes in my opinion. :) I’ve never had Kerrygold, but I will be seeking it out now. I’m headed to Ireland in August, so maybe then.

  • oooh, these look too good. mmmm, butter.

  • Joie de Vivre: Kerrygold in indeed good stuff!

    Other Tiger: what are you waiting for? :)

    gastroanthropologist: every day is a good day for spuds and butter!

    Tangled Noodle: Kerrygold and brown bread? Yep, I hear ya…

    Natasha: I can understand how it would be hard to go back having tasted something like Kerrygold :)

    Lori: thanks! simple is sometimes the best way (and do check out the Kerrygold when you get back here, as I imagine it would indeed be hard to find in Brazil)

    kickpleat: these are were good!

  • Oh, Kerrygold butter, how do I love thee?! Pommes Anna, I dream of you at night. I have a rather unhealthy relationship with potatoes that are translucent with butter:)

    PS I posted that cookie recipe with you in mind. I didn’t want you to beat me up in a jealous rage over my access to TJ’s :D

  • That’s a wonderful recipe of potato. Nobody can look down on potato as a simple vegetable. One can create a lot of different tastes from it. I just do the same with olive oil, but butter is a great idea! And thank you for the steps of clarfying butter.

    I generally make puree of potato. You can find it here: http://www.giverecipe.com/potato-puree.html
    And I use unsalted butter for this.

  • Kerrygold is like sunshine on your lips! In this case, on your potatoes! The golden brown crust is irresistible…

  • ohhh. those potatoes look AAAA MAAA ZING!!! butter (esp. kerrygold!) is delicious!

  • Its like potato chip on the outside, creamy goodness on the inside. These look like perfect potato anna. And butter I think is a best friend to all. I like Kerry Gold.

  • thts a nice way to get clarified butter…but its too long..i just buy ‘ghee’

    :)

  • You’re right, the photo says it all. It’s like all the best parts of a potato chip mixed with the best parts of a gratin.

  • I LOVE Kerry Gold! It is the only butter I generally buy! :)
    Those spuds look amazing!

  • Butter is essential. In spuds, of course, but in so many other ways too. If you want to see me do the butter dance, go here: http://www.sippitysup.com/cms/butterrocks GREG

  • Oh, you are so right. Potatoes, butter, salt – it doesn’t get much better. I am new here and happy to have discovered your blog.

  • Oh wow this looks awesome – I love love love pommes anna and I like that you left the skins on – much tastier that way I think!

  • Jenni: I do appreciate the posting of the biscookies recipe and I am not bitter about lack of access to TJs. Honest, no, really, honest I’m not…

    zerrin: I know it’s often referred to as the humble potato but no-one should ever look down on the spud :)

    Duo Dishes: Sunshine on the lips? I like it!

    Heather: thanks – it’s good stuff :)

    Abby: welcome and thanks for the great description – think I might have to use that :)

    Navita: ah, yes indeed, of course you could just buy ghee instead :)

    Marc: it’s a good combo alright

    Jenn: thanks – Kerrygold certainly does seem to have a big fanbase…

    greg: I’m speechless, I have tears in my eyes, butter does indeed rock and I will never think of Little House on the Prarie in the same way again!

    laura: welcome and thanks – I found your own lovely blog via Lori at Fake Food Free and am looking forward to doing more reading over there

    megan: yep, keeping the skins on in this case definitely gets my vote

  • It is not possible to love you anymore than I do at this very moment.

  • [...] have your Kerrygold at the ready, [...]

  • Lisha: oh my, what can I say? :)

  • [...] Found the idea to try this from thedailyspud.com [...]

  • [...] I ate these little guys straight out of the oven and I didn’t even feel the need to add any butter, that’s how good they were. Moister than roasties, but with some of the same flavours. I will [...]

  • [...] no less impressive. This is the country that brought you potato gratin in its many forms, including pommes anna, a study in simplicity of ingredients and elegance of presentation, plus innumerable dishes bearing [...]

  • [...] The recipe uses clarified butter for frying, which has less of a tendency to burn and should also help to minimise the possibility of sticking (though not in my case, clearly). For the low-down on clarified butter, scroll to the end of this post. [...]

  • [...] absorbed in the intimate company of its buttery best mate or plated up with a larger group of friends, the potato does what it does best when it’s part [...]

  • [...] their intake of saturated fat and carbs. Somebody has perhaps noticed the frequency with which spuds and butter are combined on this site and would like to do something about it, I [...]

  • [...] 4-6 tblsp clarified butter [...]

  • [...] of Top 20′s without mention of the brilliant¬†The Daily Spud.¬† Just look at this recipe for Crusty Potatoes Anna, but be warned – it may induce feelings of extreme [...]

  • [...] is really just a thin version of Crusty Potatoes Anna, with 2 layers of potato slices, brushed with clarified butter and baked in a hot oven until golden [...]

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