Potatoes, Butter, Salt: A Recipe You’ll Commit to Memory

The Swiss know cold-weather cooking. Exhibit A: rösti, the world’s most comforting potato pancake and a masterpiece of simplicity

COMFORT AND JOY There’s a reason this potato pancake has stood the test of time: The recipe makes magic from just a few ingredients.

Photo: Alpha Smoot for The Wall Street Journal, Food Styling by Heather Meldrom, Prop Styling by Kate Jordan

Rösti recipes spark the same fierce debate in Switzerland that chocolate chip cookie recipes do in the U.S. A flattened disc of shredded potatoes cooked in fat until crisp on the outside and tender and creamy within, rösti is served whole or in slices—and few people wish to stop at one. Who could possibly argue with—or about—that?

PRO TIPS

  • This classic rösti requires no embellishment. But go right ahead, should inspiration strike.
  • Well-seasoned cast-iron imparts flavor, but you can also use a nonstick skillet.
  • For frying, butter, duck fat, goose fat and bacon grease all yield tasty results.

It comes down to technique, for the most part. Some Swiss cooks insist the potatoes must be boiled a day before cooking and left to dry out a bit in the fridge overnight. I’ve found this does make the shredding quite easy. One camp insists a rösti must be flipped and cooked on both sides, while another counters that it should be crisped on one side only, leaving the other soft and moist. Wherever you come down on this question, serve the rösti with the more evenly golden and crisp of the two sides faceup.

2020欧洲杯APPOther issues can be equally divisive. Some ardently believe the potatoes must be fried in butter, others in duck fat, still others in goose fat; I would add that they are delicious cooked in the rendered fat of bacon or pancetta. (What isn’t?) Then there is the question of additions. Served straight, sans distractions, the pure flavors of the potatoes and fat can shine through. Still, it’s tempting to stir in a few lardons of crisped bacon, some grated Gruyère cheese or a sprinkling of chives. On top, a dollop of crème fraiche and a blanket of smoked salmon make an ideal combination: the heat and crunch of the potatoes against the cool tang of the cream and the silken, salty fish. I’ve even topped rösti with a poached egg, guacamole, a handful of cilantro leaves and a drizzle of jalapeño hot sauce.

2020欧洲杯APPBefore considering any of the above, however, one must master the basic recipe. Rösti is not hard to make, but there are a few rules to keep in mind. The goal is a flat cake about ¾ inch thick. Never try to double the recipe; the rösti will not flip intact or cook properly. A well-seasoned 8- or 9-inch cast iron skillet is traditional and makes a flavorful rösti, but a nonstick skillet works too.

Rösti is a winter dish through and through, regardless of whether it’s served in view of the snow-capped Matterhorn. It confers warmth and comfort, not to mention ample fuel to take on the slopes or shovel the sidewalk.

Rösti

2020欧洲杯APPTotal Time 35 minutes Serves 3

3 medium russet potatoes or 2 large ones

4 tablespoons butter or duck or goose fat

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons hot water

1.2020欧洲杯APP The day before you plan to cook the rösti, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add potatoes in their skins and boil until just short of tender, about 15 minutes. (Timing will vary according to the size of the potatoes you use.) Drain potatoes and refrigerate overnight.

2. The next day, while potatoes are still cold, peel them, then grate them using medium holes of a box grater.

3.2020欧洲杯APP In an 8- or 9-inch cast-iron or nonstick skillet over low heat, melt butter. Gradually add grated potatoes and salt. Cook over low heat, turning frequently with a spatula, until potatoes are soft and yellow, about 3 minutes.

4. Press potatoes into a flat cake. You don’t need to push hard, but you do want to apply enough pressure to form a cake that will hold its shape. Sprinkle with hot water.

5. Cover and cook, shaking pan frequently to prevent scorching and adding a little butter as necessary to prevent sticking, until potatoes are crusty and golden on bottom, 10-15 minutes.

6. 2020欧洲杯APPTurn rösti out onto a serving platter, crusty side up, and serve. Alternatively, if you’d like to crisp both sides, flip rösti by inverting onto a plate. Melt another tablespoon of butter in skillet. Slide rösti back into skillet and cook until underside is crusty and golden. Turn out onto a serving platter. Eat while still hot.

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