What the heck is a rösti? I’m always a little angry, and a little excited, when I hear new potato recipes on cooking shows. I am 100 percent Irish, but raised American, and Americans think they invented fried potatoes.
My Irish Mom taught us to bake, broil, roast and pan fry these starchy gems. I’ve deep fried, air fried, mashed, whipped and shredded potatoes throughout my life. We even made dough out of it. How can it be that I lived 5-decades and never heard of a “rösti” potato?
I spent my covid-19 quarantine reading, gardening and watching cooking television shows. So, I spent the 90-days of quarantine doing what I’ve always done. So it happened that one Sunday morning I was watching Canadian Chef Spencer Watts Big 30, and I heard about this potato dish with origins that are not Irish, American or Canadian. The rösti is a Swiss concoction.
The rösti is part potato pancake, part hash brown, and part latkes. It began, like most great dishes, as peasant food. It’s cheap, requires no recipe, and can be adapted to regional taste by adding whatever is in the fridge or pantry.
The rösti is the perfect accompaniment to eggs at breakfast or an excellent side at supper. To service simply cut into wedges.
A little potato history.
The potato was first farmed in Peru — that’s right, the new world brought us the spud – between 5000 and 8000 BC. Sir Walter Raleigh brought the potato to Cork, Ireland in 1589 where it becomes a staple of the Irish diet because it is easy to grow and can be stored and eaten far into the winter. It takes another 40 years before it takes hold throughout Europe. Ireland becomes indisputably linked to the potato during the famine from 1845-1852 when a fungus destroys more than half the crop and more than a million Irish peasants flee the country to find food.
The potato comes to America in the 1600s and during the succeeding 200 years it basically is grown as feed for agriculture. American Horticulturist Luther Burbank develops a disease resistant potato in 1872. The Russert-Burbank Potato was introduced to Ireland to help combat the effects from the famine and the Idaho potato industry began.
The Perfect Rösti.
The key to the perfect Rösti is a crispy outer shell and a creamy center. Too much potato in the pan and the end product is too mushy, too little potato and the luxurious mouth feel is lost. The beauty of this dish is its simplicity. You don’t need a special pan and all of the ingredients and most of the toppings are already in your pantry or fridge.
The basic Rösti recipe.
- lb. potatoes (Yukon Golds or russets are best)
- 1-1/2 tsp. salt
- Generous 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 3 Tbs. vegetable or olive oil for frying; more as needed
Peel and grate the potatoes into a bowl of cold, salted water.
Let them sit for at least 5 minutes, and up to 30 minutes. This will help remove some of the starches and keep them from browning. Removing the excess starch will also let them crisp during pan frying.
Drain the water away from the shredded potatoes and pat on a paper towel to absorb the remaining water.
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon of garlic or onion powder (both is overpowering)
Add 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil to a non-stick pan over medium heat.
Once the oil begins to shimmer, place all the potato in the pan and press it down firmly. You want approximately 1/2-inch thickness.
Let it sizzle over medium heat — be careful it doesn’t brown to quickly — for 12-16 minutes. Then turn the rösti over.
If you are not comfortable flipping the potato disk you might at this point flip it out on a plate. Grab a second plate to rotate it onto its cooked side and then return it to the pan. Or you can simply put it under a high broiler for a few minutes until the top browns. Keep an eye on it!
Awesome Additions and Toppings.
You can’t go wrong with standard baked potato toppings like cheddar cheese, chives, sour cream, or bacon.
- Mayonnaise and horseradish
- Olive tapenade and feta cheese
- Sundried tomato and caramelized onion
- bacon and grated Gruyere cheese
- Basil, fresh tomato and mozzarella (Rösti pizza)
- Poached eggs, green onion and swiss cheese
For A Healthier Take
You can replace 1/2 the potato with the sweet potato or even a rutabaga. There will be less starch and carbohydrate.
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