After my lengthy post Potatoes: endless varieties in Switzerland of 14 September 2009, it is only logical that I give you a few ideas about how to use all those varieties of potatoes.
I’ll start by the thoroughly Swiss dish, rösti.
Rösti is definitely a Swiss dish, but there as many variations as there are cantons in Switzerland. The Restaurant Anker Bern in Bern lists nearly 30 different versions on its menu. The main difference lies in whether to use raw or cooked potatoes, as well as in what is added to the potatoes.
Historically, rösti was breakfast food
At the beginning of the 19th century, rösti was the main breakfast fare in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, and probably started in the rural areas around Zurich. They ate it with café au lait. Gradually it moved south towards the Alps, then to Bern where it was given the name it now bears, “rösti”. From Bern it moved towards the French-speaking areas, toward canton Vaud, where it eventually replaced their traditional morning soup.
Recipe for Bern-style rösti
Rösti à la Bernoise, or Bern-style rösti, is made with potatoes cooked in their skins; the potatoes are cooked the day before, so that they are cold and can be easily grated.
The first thing you need to purchase is a special rösti potato grater, called a kartofell in German and râpe à rösti in French. What differentiates it from other graters is its big holes. Smaller holes will give you an effect more like American-style hashbrowns.
This recipe is inspired by the Restaurant Anker Bern’s recipe.
Cook 1 kg of potatoes the day before. I would suggest steaming them in a double-walled Kuhn Rikon Durotherm pan, with as little water as possible, so that they don’t absorb too much water and maintain a maximum of their vitamins. Cook them until they are done, but still quite quite firm. Put in refrigerator overnight.
The next day, peel the potatoes, by hand if possible. Use a rösti grater to grate into large strips, as long as possible. Mix with 1 tsp salt.
Over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of lard (saindoux) (the pork butcher or regular butcher can sell this in small quantities) in a cast iron or aluminum frying pan, such as a Swiss Diamond.
Buy a thick slab of bacon (lard) from the pork butcher, around 50 g. Chop into small bits, removing any hard rind.
Add bacon and potatoes to frying pan. Mix slowly, turning gently from time to time with a rubber spatula (metal will scratch a non-stick surface).
After it has started to cook, mash it down with the spatula, so that it forms a large “pancake”. Lower to medium low heat and cover. If it starts to burn, lower heat even further.
After 10 minutes, cover pan with a serving dish of the appropriate size and turn rösti onto a plate, upside down. Carefully slide back into frying pan, with the unbrowned side down, and cover.
The rösti should be golden brown on both sides.
After 10 minutes, pour 2 tablespoons of milk over the rösti. Cook for 10 more minutes. Gently slide it onto a plate and serve.
Firm (but not extra-firm), type B potatoes, such as the Sirtema, Christa, Ostara, Agria, Urgenta, Bintje and Désirée varieties, are ideal for this dish.
Restaurant Anker Bern
B. and S. Bill
T. +41 (0)31 311 11 13
F. +41 (0)31 311 11 71
Monday-Thursday: 7:30-23:30 H
Friday-Saturday: 7:30-0:30 H
Sunday: 9:30-18 H
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