I've written before that baking brought me a sense of accomplishment when I felt I was losing any grip on my own life. In California, I lived in a house where I wasn't paying rent. I didn't love my boyfriend. I regretted going to law school. I slept for long hours when I was unemployed. I found no reason to do anything to pass the time. I tried my hand at running with Murphy (we only had Murphy at the time), but the California sun was hot and I was breathless from chainsmoking and skipping breakfast.
So I cooked. I baked. I read cookbooks and dog-eared library books. One influence on me was Laura Calder, who hosted a french cooking show on the Cooking Channel. I went through her whole series in a matter of days, having recorded them to watch later. And a dish that inspired me, to have me realize that French cuisine is more rustic than fussy, was her pommes anna, which I have adapted only slightly below.
- 3 lbs potatoes, cleaned
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 3 TB unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon flaked sea salt
- 2 TB thyme
- Preheat oven to 400*F
- Cut out two rounds of parchment paper that fit a 12-inch cast iron skillet
- Grease skillet and place one round onto the skillet
- Whisk together heavy cream and butter
- Thinly slice your potatoes and place into your heavy cream mixture
- Arrange your potatoes in layers, sprinkling with a bit of salt, pepper, and thyme
- Keep layering until you're out of potatoes
- Now, place the second parchment round on top of the potatoes and press down gently
- Weigh your potatoes down with a heavy pan or dutch oven to press all layers together while baking
- Bake for 1 and a half hours or until tender in the middle and crisp on the edges
- Allow to cool before inverting onto a pan
- Slice and enjoy!