I doubt I will do a full on retrospective of every dish we prepared this past Thanksgiving holiday, but I do want to comment on a couple over the next week or two. Here is a picture of the (almost) full spread we prepared with links to recipes. I will update the descriptions of the photos in the Flickr album with my thoughts on how they turned out and what I might do differently next time etc... especially for the ones that don't get turned into blog posts.
What you see above are the Mini Herbed Pommes Anna from Bon Appétit. I thought these came out quite well, and were... as expected... cute as a button in their individual little piles. The downside is pretty steep, however, as they are a huge pain in the butt to make... especially when you consider how simple traditional Pommes Anna are: layer potato slices slathered in butter and essentially bake for an hour.
These babies required a weeeee bit more effort and individual attention however. First you've got to cut out little parchment paper circles for the buttered muffin pans, and then decorate with sprigs of thyme.
Then you've got to layer the 1.75 lbs of potatoes you've sliced to a 1/16 of an inch (or less!) and coated in herb butter. Note that you'll be flipping these stacks of potatoes three times between now and the finish line, so any stability you can impart with clever stacking would be welcome at this point! Perhaps consider recruiting any OCD engineer type family members that are hanging around the kitchen for the stacking. In addition, the recipe called for "golf ball" size potatoes, but maybe what you want is actually muffin size potatoes? Then you wouldn't need to have uneven layers of potatoes that are prone to falling over?
They go into the oven... pans covered in foil... for about 35 minutes at 350 degrees. The idea being to get them cooked through before you brown them, which is a standard step in any Pommes Anna recipe. The annoying part comes in when you have to flip them out of the muffin pans (see above), and then have to flip them back over (so the thyme sprigs are at the bottom again) before returning them to the oven to brown.
To answer your questions, no, they do not stay together in little piles when you flip them back over and, yes, you will probably have to rearrange nearly every single one. The good news is that if you enjoyed that, you get to flip them back over in 25-30 minutes!
That 25-30 minutes takes place in a 425 degree oven after you've arranged all those little piles of potatoes with thyme sprigs face down on a cookie sheet. Once they've gotten nicely browned on top you take them out of the oven and flip them back over... the results of which you can see above. A nice browned crust has formed on the tops that were touching the cookie sheet, as you'd expect.
And they were good, I'll grant you... but were they any better then just making them in a baking dish? Not a chance. Way too much effort and frustration for too little payoff. I would not make this dish unless you were really trying to impress someone.
The natural question... to me at least... is what happens if you eschew the parchment paper and leave the potatoes in the muffin pans until the very end. Will they brown enough? Will you be able to get them out of the muffin pans at the end? I don't know the answers to those questions, but I presume the answer is "no" to at least one of them and that's why the recipe writers at Bon Appétit chose to do it this way... but the only hope for this recipe is to figure out some way to streamline it, because it's totally not worth it otherwise. Not a recommended recipe.