I think we all have default recipes. The ones we rely on because they never fail. Everyone likes them, and we've made them so often that they're no-brainers. For me, mashed potatoes have been a consistent winner, but I've been looking at other potato recipes and ran across rosti, which my mother used to make when I was a kid.
While some think it's a German dish, it's actually Swiss, and quite old. Think of it as a slightly more sophisticated cousin of hash browns, or a relative of the potato pancake. It's deliciously crunchy on the outside and soothingly soft on the inside. Like a lot of recipes that have been around for a long time, there are too many variations to count. Some people recommend par-boiling the potatoes, some cook the potatoes before shredding, and some use them raw. You can add all sorts of interesting things like cheese, onions, or zucchini, but I love a plain, basic rosti.
A basic rosti contains only potatoes, salt, and pepper. Sounds simple, but a rosti can be tricky. It takes a little tweaking to get it right. I've come to the conclusion that the difficulties lie in the temperature at which it cooks, and the thickness of the rosti.
I'm far too lazy to cook the potatoes first, so I use raw Idaho potatoes. Most recipes call for a volume, like a pound. For me, that turned out to be three small Idaho potatoes. Yellow Yukons should work well, too. Hint Number One: Don't use too many potatoes. The rosti should only be about half an inch thick.
The second potential pitfall is temperature. Hint Number Two: The rosti has to be started at the low side of moderate heat and then cooked over moderately low heat. On my stove "6" is the middle heat temperature. I start the rosti at 5 and immediately turn it down to 3.5, which is a fairly low temp. If you have a non-stick pan that can brown food, it might be a good choice for this dish, but you'll probably have to change the temperatures and times a bit. I use a plain skillet.
Rosti1 10-inch skillet
1 pound potatoes
3/4 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1. Peel the potatoes and shred them. I zip them through a food processor in seconds.
2. Place the raw potatoes in a bowl and add the salt and pepper. (3/4 teaspoon of salt works well for me, though you may prefer more or less salt) Toss with two forks to distribute.
3. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter with 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil over moderate heat.
4. When the foaming stops, add the potatoes, spread, and press flat.
5. Turn the heat down to moderately low, and let cook about 10 minutes.
6. Slide a spatula underneath the potatoes to loosen, place a dinner plate over the pan, and flip to remove the rosti from the pan.
At this point, if there are remaining bits in the pan, take a minute to scrape them out or to wash the pan so they won't burn when you cook the other side.
7. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil. When the foaming stops, slide the rosti back into the pan and cook over moderately low heat for 10-12 minutes or until cooked through.
8. Slide out of the pan and onto a plate. Cut in fourths to serve.
Warning! This should serve four. However, it's usually so good that two can easily eat it. And when I left the kitchen briefly the other night, a certain dog, who will not be named, proved that one rosti is the right size for a 110 pound dog.