The Garden of Eating
Rösti, a potato pancake, is a traditional Swiss breakfast food but you can enjoy it for lunch or dinner, too, topped with sour cream and apple sauce.

Potato rösti

Rösti is a perfectly browned, buttery potato pancake of epic proportions made with sweet, waxy Yukon Golds.

Rösti is a traditional Swiss breakfast food although I usually make it for either brunch or dinner. It's very, very simple and very, very good. Plus, there's that umlaut over the ö which gives it automatic European sophistication.

Here's what you do. Take a big bunch of Yukon Golds – don't use a baking potato for this, you want the sweetness and waxy flesh of a Yukon Gold or a Yellow Finn for this preparation – and peel them. Then grate them on the large holes of a box grater.

Squeeze out as much of the water as you can. I let mine drain in a strainer while I grated and then squished it down with the heel of my hand a bunch of times. You can also wrap them in a clean dishtowel and squeeze the water out that way.

Turn them out into a bowl and add lots of salt and pepper. Potatoes always need more salt than I think they will. I just go with a little more than feels right to me and am rewarded with perfect seasoning. 

Next you melt a lot of clarified butter or ghee in a thick frying pan or iron skillet and pat the grated taters down into a big, thick, golden pancake.

Cook it over medium heat for 15-20 minutes, until the bottom gets nicely browned and the edges begin to crisp up.

Then comes the tricky bit – getting it out of the pan, flipping it over and getting it back in, preferably in one piece. I always find this part very stressful but the good news is that it will still taste just as good if you don't get it out in one perfect piece. Sometimes I do and sometimes I don't.

Then you add more clarified butter or ghee to the pan and flop it back in so the other side is facing up now. Put some more butter around the edges and pop it into the oven to cook for another 15 or so minutes. A note about the butter. Clarified butter is just butter that's been melted and had the milk solids removed – those solids are the part that burns so getting rid of them makes for better, more non-stick cooking. You can either make clarified butter or you can go the even easier route and buy a jar of ghee – the Indian version of clarified butter. If you can find it and if you can afford it, get an organic ghee.

Once it's all browned and crisp on the edges, turn the heat off, turn your massive potato pancake out onto a plate and DIG IN. I usually put out sour cream and homemade applesauce, just like I would with latkes though it's great just as it is, too. And if you eat fish, rösti is wonderful with poached or grilled salmon or arctic char and a green salad with fresh herbs and cucumber.

I hope you like it even half as much as I do.

Potato Rösti
Serves 6

10 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
Coarse salt (at least a few teaspoons) and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup clarified butter or ghee

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Grate the potatoes on the large holes of a box grater and then squeeze the water out of them by either placing in a strainer and pushing down repeatedly or wrapping in a clean dishtowel and squeezing out the liquid. Then place the potatoes in a large bowl and toss with lots of salt and pepper.

2. Heat half of the clarified butter or ghee in a 9- or 10-inch cast iron skillet (don't use anything with plastic since you will be finishing it in the oven) over medium heat and then spread the potatoes evenly in the pan, pressing down to form a flattened cake. Cook until the bottom and sides are golden brown, about 18 minutes.

3. Take the pan off the heat and gently loosen around the sides with a silicon spatula (I sometimes use a metal frosting knife since it's kind of thin and flexible). Place a large plate over the pan and flip it over. Hope and pray that the thing comes out in one piece. If not, scrape the bits that didn't come out off and patch them back onto the top of it. If there are still bits stuck to the pan, remove them – you don't want anything left in there for the pancake to stick to when you put it back in.

4. Put the skillet back on the heat, add half of the remaining butter and let it heat up before gently flipping/sliding the rösti back into the pan with the unbrowned side down. Spread the rest of the butter around the edges and cook for another 10 minutes or so, giving the pan a shake a few times to loosen the cake. Then transfer to the oven to finish cooking through for another 10 minutes or so. Remove from the oven, cut into wedges and serve hot. 

Related post on The Garden of Eating: Potato latkes

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