Röschti is Swiss peasant food; a potato cake as big as your favorite cast iron pan. It is the perfect late summer comfort food, wholesome and nourishing, utilizing the first waxy new potatoes and fresh herbs without ever turning on the oven. Actually, it’s 66 degrees out there at 10:15 p.m. EST so turning on the oven doesn’t sound so bad at the moment.
I’m going to come right out and tell you, first off, that this is only how I make Röschti. Do a little research and you’ll find hundreds of variations – add mushrooms, peppers, sour cream or eggs, serve with scrambled eggs, cook crumbled bacon in the pan to start, boil the potatoes first or not, bake it or steam it – a potato cake by any other name, etc.
Use the best potatoes you can find. This is a wonderful dish made with Grade A fresh potatoes, and a very mediocre one made with shriveled refugees from the root cellar.
3 lbs (or thereabout) tasty, waxy, smooth, heavy, lustrous potatoes. You think I’m kidding but I’m not. Today I used Yukon Gold, fresh from the potato bunker and, yes, they met the standard.
1 stick butter (you might not use all of it, time will tell)
2 Tbs olive or vegetable oil
1/4 C fresh herbs (I use flat leaved parsley and chives, but the sky’s the limit here.)
1/2 C grated Gruyere or whatever you like. Use more if your potatoes are dry.
Sea salt, fresh ground pepper
Cut the potatoes into manageable pieces and boil them until JUST tender. Don’t over cook. Cool for four hours or overnight.
HAH. I know you’re not going to do that, or perhaps I’m reflecting, because I never do. I have a day job. So drain the hot, hot potatoes and use a clean pot holder to hold the pieces against a nice old four sided grater over a plate. Mine is old enough and sharp enough that I get an annual tetanus shot, just for using it.
This is going to wreck your pot holder, so consider investing in one of those new-fangled silicone items that would just rinse clean instead of getting potato all over the rest of your laundry.
Grate about 1/3 of the potato and dump it in a bowl. Add some cheese, herbs, salt and pepper. Alternating the layers makes it easier to mix the ingredients without squashing the delicate potato shavings, like this. Repeat until all the ingredients are together.
Heat a cast iron or nonstick (eww) skillet with deep sides and add the olive oil, 3 Tbs butter (no fear). Dump the mixture in and press it down with a spatula or potato masher.
Now, the whole point of Röschti is the deep gold crust. This is achieved by cooking over a medium low heat for 12 minutes or so per side. Don’t chicken out, and don’t make this dish for company your first time out (long story). When you think the first side is done, loosen the sides with your spatula. Take a heavy plate just slightly larger than your pan and, using pot holders, flip the out on to the plate. I like to turn off the burner while I do this (long story).
Check your crust. Is it brown and crispy? Would it make your Swiss ancestor (we’ve all got one, they got around) proud? If not, don’t worry, you can flip it again after we do the other side.
Clean the crusty bits out of the pan (you can cheat and place it back on the cake – I won’t tell). Add 2 more Tbs of butter and turn the burner back on. Pick the plate up and slide the cake back down into the pan. Go make salad or something.
Repeat the above after 12 minutes. If the crust is acceptable on both sides, simply keep it on the plate and serve in wedges. My personal favorite is to serve with a large green salad and Campari and soda all around. And blueberry pie for dessert.
I meant to get a picture of the finished dish, but by the time I got the camera together, this is what it looked like. Sigh.