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The Versatility of Anna

March 23, 1997|JOAN DRAKE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Potatoes Anna can be baked in a $230 tin-lined copper pan designed especially for this classic recipe or in a glass baking dish that sells for about $2. The lid of the expensive pan is used to compress the potatoes; the glass dish lets the cook see how the potatoes are browning and a heavy skillet is used to compress the potatoes.

The choice is up to the cook.

So is whether to use perfectly round potato slices, formed by a biscuit cutter, or more irregular ones simply cut from peeled spuds. Either way, the slices should be about 1/8 of an inch thick.

And which type of potatoes? Although most cookbooks include a traditional version of potatoes Anna calling for white, the recipe is flexible enough that sweet potatoes can be substituted. These orange-fleshed cousins won't discolor, so the dish can be assembled ahead and refrigerated, even overnight.

Whichever way you choose to prepare pOtatoes Anna, make sure the baking dish is well buttered to keep the slices from sticking and use the best potatoes on the bottom layer (which becomes the top when the dish is inverted for serving).

Arrange the slices in slightly overlapping concentric circles, season each layer, sprinkle with Parmesan and drizzle with melted butter. Shake the pan occasionally to be certain the potatoes aren't sticking and press down with your hands to make the layers as compact as possible.

For the first half hour in the oven, bake the potatoes covered with foil and weighted so the layers compress as the potatoes soften. Then uncover and continue to bake until brown and crisp on the top and edges.

Before turning the potatoes out of the baking pan or dish, drain off the excess butter. (It can be used to drizzle over other vegetables served with the meal.)

Any potatoes that stick to the pan can be carefully lifted out with a metal spatula and replaced in the design. Cut in wedges to serve.

SWEET POTATOES ANNA

1 tablespoon plus 1/2 cup butter, melted

2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled

1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

Salt, pepper

Adapted from Sunset magazine (November 1986).

Use 1 tablespoon butter to coat bottom of shallow 1 1/2-quart round baking dish, 9-inch glass pie plate or potatoes Anna pan. Set aside.

Thinly slice potatoes and overlap slices in 1 layer in bottom of baking dish. Sprinkle with about 1 tablespoon cheese and drizzle with about same amount melted butter. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Continue layering until all potatoes and cheese are used, shaking pan occasionally to prevent sticking. Drizzle any remaining butter over top.

Cover pan with foil. Press down with hands to compact potatoes.

Place heavy skillet on top of foil. Bake on lowest oven rack at 425 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove skillet and foil and continue baking until brown and crisp on top and edges, 40 to 45 minutes longer. (Note: If prepared ahead and refrigerated, increase initial baking period to 45 minutes.)

Remove baking dish from oven and let stand 5 minutes. Holding potatoes in dish with large spatula, drain off excess butter.

Loosen potatoes around edges with small metal spatula. Invert potatoes onto serving plate.

6 servings. Each serving:

491 calories; 494 mg sodium; 92 mg cholesterol; 34 grams fat; 42 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams protein; 1.51 grams fiber.

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