The Gallivanting Gourmand
Greg Duncan
Greg Duncan
is a freelance writer based in the Montreal region. He is particularly keen about good food. In his day job, Greg is the executive director of the Quebec Community Newspapers Association.

His previous columns are archived HERE.

Posted 04.13.02


Rösti - a crispy Swiss classic

I am ravenous and it is only seven o clock in the morning. Must be something to do with the warming temperatures and the promise of summer.

It might also have something to do with a craving for rösti, which I have had since eating at a Swiss restaurant a couple of weeks back.

Sometimes it's the simplest of foods that linger in the mind long after a meal is gone.

It is the smoky, oniony, crispy little potato pancakes that I enjoyed that are haunting me.

While dining, the restaurant owner shared a couple of tips that make her version of rösti ever so good.

I'll share them with you but first, a little lesson in origin:

rösti hails from a region of Switzerland also known for Emmental (good, hard, stinky cheese). The town of Berne claims ownership of this potato classic. Somehow, though, the word has spread and countless other villages challenge that claim.

Rightful owners or not, the rest of the world now benefits by the grating of the most basic of vegetables.

The trick to successful rösti comes by trial and error. The more you make them, the better they will be. Now you know what you are up against.

The preparation is really quite simple.

You will need some time to let the potatoes cool before grating and this perhaps is the most important lesson.

To make rösti to serve four, boil 2 pounds of potatoes in their jackets (five minutes will do for medium potatoes) and drain them. Leave your potatoes to cool until completely cold (in the fridge is best). Peel them and grate coarsely.

Cut 4 slices of bacon into small pieces and fry in a heavy pan until the fat is transparent. Add the potatoes mixed with one medium onion, grated. Season with salt and pepper and fry over a moderate heat, turning the potatoes constantly with a spatula so the bottom of the pan remains clean.

With the spatula, pat the potatoes into a firm cake. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter around the edges of the cake in the pan. Cover and fry gently for a further 10 to 15 minutes, or until a golden crust occurs on the bottom. Shake the pan from time to time to prevent sticking. Flip cake over and fry until crusty and golden.

This makes one large rösti that can be divided, but you can easily form four good-sized patties at the beginning and fry them separately in the same pan, using the spatula-pressing technique.

Some rösti variations include the addition of cheese grated over top at the last minute, but in my humble opinion these are best served sans fromage.

That's it; I am off to the kitchen to make some, as I just happen to have four cold potatoes in the fridge. I know there must be some bacon in there.