A Whiff of Bacon Grease
Standing on a stool in front of the kitchen stove and the hot oven turning my little face red, I asked Momma, “Who’s Anna?”
She replied, “I don’t know Big Sis, but I reckon she got famous for her potato cakes.”
Speaking of the mound of sliced potatoes in the cast iron skillet before me I said, “Oh, so that’s why you call ’em Anna Potatoes.”
Decades later, I learned that Anna Potatoes is a classic French dish that originated during the time of Napoleon III and is correctly referred to by culinary experts as “Pommes Anna.”
Anyway, I loved to cook and enjoyed the privilege of being the Big Sis in the family while my two younger sisters watched from the kitchen table in hopes of getting an early taste of what Momma and I were cooking.
Momma’s kitchen didn’t sport any inexpensive mandolin slicers; she had sliced the potatoes cracker-thin by hand and had placed them in a bowl of water with lemon juice to keep them from turning brown.
“You drained those potatoes good, didn’t you?” she asked.
I nodded yes.
“Watch that you don’t get splattered with grease,” she reminded. “Yes Ma’am,” I replied.
Being raised in a big Southern family, I ingested a lot of bacon grease back then because most cooks agreed that if it couldn’t be fried in bacon grease, it wasn’t worth cooking, let alone eating.
To this day, I still agree that the superior flavor of bacon grease over any other oil can’t be beat in many Southern recipes.
For Northerners who weren’t advised to save up all manner of bacon grease before moving to East Tennessee, Canola Oil and butter works just fine with this recipe — changes the whiff and flavor — but, works just fine.
Many butter-filled variations are available on the Internet and even fancy pans to cook them in; however, the following recipe is a quick, old-timey version with a down home flavor of its own.
Anna’s Potato Cake
4 large, firm potatoes,
peeled and thinly sliced
2 to 3 tablespoons bacon grease
2 ounces Parmesan or Swiss
Salt and Pepper to taste
After heating two tablespoons of bacon grease in a round skillet, remove pan from fire and cover bottom with light layer of potatoes. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and a little cheese.
Arrange another layer of potatoes ... and so on until all are employed. Cover pan and place back on medium heat for 5 minutes.
Flip carefully with large spatula (or onto a separate plate and then flipped back into the hot pan). Add extra bacon grease to ensure even browning.
Re-cover and cook another 3 minutes then place in hot oven (400 degrees F.) for another 10 minutes. Slice like a pizza and serve anytime of the day — with near about anything.
Leba also writes the “Upon Reflection” column that runs bi-monthly in the Sunday edition of the Banner. firstname.lastname@example.org.