A Potato Dish for Julia

Once, when I was in Cambridge working all day nonstop with Julia Child, as we often did, it was almost 11 p.m. when she finally swept away the manuscript and announced we’d make dinner. She then turned to me and said: “Judith, you make a nice little potato dish while I fix the meat.” Slightly unnerved, I managed to rise to the occasion and put together what I would call a fast stovetop version of the classic potatoes Anna. As I mashed some garlic and salt together and smeared this between the layers of sliced potatoes, Julia was looking on a bit skeptically, and although I used lots of butter, of which she always approved, it wasn’t clarified butter. But when we sat down and she took her first bite, she pronounced the potatoes delicious, and her husband, Paul, toasted me. I was in cook’s heaven. I probably made my potato dish that night in a standard round 5- or 6- inch skillet for the three of us, but in recent years I’ve made it regularly for myself in a 4 1/2-inch-square cast-iron frying pan, which once belonged to my father. After he retired, he liked cooking for himself, and I remember his acquiring this little pan with pride so that he could make himself one perfect fried egg. It’s unlikely that you’ll have such a pan, particularly one imbued with fond memories, but any very small skillet will do.–Judith Jones

LC Empty Larder or Lazy Cook Note

Truth be told, we also make this lovely side dish with some frequency, but without the garlic and with olive oil or bacon drippings in place of butter. But that’s just us. Only the original was Julia-approved.

A Potato Dish for Julia Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 10 M
  • 30 M
  • Serves 1 to 2

Ingredients

  • 2 medium new potatoes or 1 large russet potato
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • Salt to taste
  • 4 teaspoons butter
  • Freshly ground pepper

Directions

  • 1. Peel the potato(es) and slice them very thin.
  • 2. Peel and mince the garlic. Using the flat of your chef ’s knife, smash the garlic along with a little salt on your cutting board until a paste forms. Work about 2 teaspoons of the butter into the paste.
  • 3. Heat 2 teaspoons of the butter in a small, preferably well-seasoned cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat. Place half of the potato slices in the skillet, overlapping them slightly and covering the bottom of the skillet. Lightly season the spuds with salt and pepper, then smear the garlic paste on top. Add the remaining potatoes in the same fashion.
  • 4. Cook the potatoes gently over medium-low heat, placing a small cover askew on top of the pan. After about 8 minutes, turn the potatoes, which should be brown on the bottom, by removing the cover and setting a small, sturdy plate on top of the pan and flipping the potatoes over onto it. They won’t hold together in perfect shape, but don’t worry. Heat the remaining butter in the pan, then just slide the potatoes back in and arrange them as neatly as you can. Let them cook, semi- covered, for about 5 minutes, and then cook uncovered for a couple more minutes, at which point they should be tender thoughout and nicely browned on both top and bottom. The timing will vary slightly depending on the size of the skillet, the heat of the flame, and just how thick you sliced the potatoes.
  • 5. Turn the potatoes onto a warm dinner plate and let them mingle with whatever meat and its juices you are having for dinner.
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Testers Choice

Testers Choice
Testers Choice
Tamiko Lagerwaard

Jul 19, 2010

This is a delightfully simple, quick, and tasty potato dish. Since the recipe didn’t state one way or the other, I used salted butter, along with a little more salt to season the potatoes. I also used one large potato (as I could only find small, large, or gargantuan), and this worked out quite well. I cooked these a little longer than suggested, as they didn’t brown to the extent that I wanted them to be, but I didn’t alter the recipe otherwise. The recipe is perfect as it is. No wonder Julia was pleased.

Testers Choice
Larry Noak

Jul 19, 2010

This has become my favorite side dish. So simple yet, so perfect. What, No cheese? No bacon? EVERYTHING you need is here. If it was good enough for Julia, it must be good enough for us.

Comments
Comments
  1. A beautiful story and a delicious-looking recipe. Thank you for sharing this with us, Judith!

  2. Lauralee Hensley says:

    Oh, what a tasty recipe that I am going to try. My husband loves fried sliced potatoes, and we both love garlic, so I’m sure this will be a favorite in our family. Thanks for sharing this with us.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      We think it’s a keeper, too, Lauralee. Do let us know how you like it…

  3. Susan says:

    I make a layered potato dish similar to this with a sprinkle of butter, pepper and my twist is a fine grating of Parmesan cheese, then another layer, etc. Baked until golden my husband asks for it all the time.

  4. Susan says:

    This is a good recipe. It turned out delicious, but mine was not nearly as pretty as the picture. I think next time I need to devote more attention to browning it just right, and maybe using a larger cast iron skillet. As suggested, in my “pleasure of cooking for one,” I used my little tiny iron skillet which is about six inches wide. It was a bit awkward for doing the plate-flip-thing.
    But anyway, thanks for the recipe. It was tasty and I will cook a tribute to Julia anytime. :)

  5. RisaG says:

    This sounds sooo delicious. If it was Julia-approved it must be really excellent. I just ate at a Chinese restaurant that Julia used to frequent (in Boston’s Chinatown) and it was excellent.

    Anyway, thanks for the memories and the recipe. I have to try this.

    RisaG

  6. Melinda says:

    I have made this dish twice in the last week. It has gone on our weekly meal rotation. My husband and I love it, which I was sure of, but what surprised me is how much our three kids DEVOURED the dish!

  7. Sofia says:

    As we are a family of 5 I decided to triple it, wished I had quadrupled it. Tripling it was tight for the 5 of us, REAL tight. But… ohhh so good. And am sorry LC Empty Larder or Lazy Cook but in this case I would have to disagree. As much as I DO love potato slices in olive oil, these ones are winners!

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