A restaurant dish if there ever was one, and it crops up in various guises, usually placed under an expensive piece of meat. If the cake is assembled with butter it could be Pommes Darphin or more commonly Pommes Anna; if cooked in rendered foie gras fat it becomes Pommes Sarladaise; the inclusion of onions would make it a Gâteau de pommes de terre Lyonnaise; and to grate the potato then bake it in butter would transport us from France to Switzerland, and we would be making Rösti. This version is more Italian in feel and is eminently achievable at home.
The grand old French restaurants around Soho used to serve many of these potato dishes, though by the time I came on the scene their standards had slipped so much that the various distinctions had become totally blurred and the chance of finding anything cooked in real goose fat were minimal. Second-hand chip oil would be the likeliest candidate.
Slice the potatoes as thinly as you can (the best implement for this is a mandolin), then soak the slices in cold water for a few minutes to get rid of some of the starch. If you have used the slicing blade on a food processor then the soaking time will need to be much longer and involve several changes of water as this method extracts more starch from the potatoes. Drain the potatoes and dry them thoroughly, then mix in a large bowl with the oil, rosemary leaves and garlic slices. Season generously and toss thoroughly.
The cake must be cooked as soon as it is assembled otherwise the potatoes may discolour. Bake for approximately 20 minutes, then turn the heat down to
Possibly the only tricky part of this recipe. Take an ovenproof flat serving dish
This recipe works extremely well with butter instead of oil. Melt but don’t overcook the butter and proceed with the method, possibly substituting sage for the rosemary. Should you be lucky enough to lay your hands on duck, goose or foie gras fat the same applies, except the best herb is thyme. Another variation is to substitute mashed potato for the slices.
© 1999 Alastair Little. All rights reserved.