The longer I´ve lived in France, the more I dive into the delightful ocean that is French cuisine, but the more I also rediscover the gems of German cooking. The dishes from home didn´t play a big role in my kitchen for quite some time, not out of dislike, but rather because I was (and continue to be) so eager to learn everything I can about French cooking that oftentimes there aren´t nearly enough meals per day to make everything I have in mind. In my defense (not that anyone had accused me) I might add that from this blog´s early days I´ve made some effort to include a few German favorites every once in a while, even though I didn´t always refer to the term ´German cooking´ in the most geographically precise way. But at least I ´ve never been all cheating: Kaiserschmarrn, for instance, comes from Austria, but it´s safe to say Bavarian emperor (Kaiser) Franz had something to do with it, too. The cradle of Guglhupf, a sweet yeasted cake baked in a tubed mould, stands in the Alsacian region of France, or as others claim in the court of Versailles, but to me, it simply “belongs” to my German great aunt because hers was the best Guglhupf I´ve ever had (and I´ve grown up very close to Alsace anyway).
Rösti, in contrast, wasn´t a staple in her repertoire, though I actually wonder why not given how good it is. Made of nothing but grated potatoes, it originates from Switzerland, but over time has found its way on so many Southern German plates I dare say it deserves both culinary passports. You may imagine Rösti as the sibling of potatoes Anna, the French version of a potato “cake”, but requiring less work: no thorough layering of potato slices, no finish in the oven. In Switzerland, Rösti – derived by the word “rösten” which means to roast, to fry – is very popular served with veal stew and mushroom sauce, but I find it goes with quite anything, particularly with duck magrets. In fact, it even goes with nothing but a handful of persillade (garlic and parsley). I like to fry it in duck fat, but clarified butter works as well. The key is to be patient and not flip the cake over until it starts to loosen from the bottom of the pan, then you´ll be rewarded with a golden galette of grated potatoes, crisp on the outside, tender and “fondant” on the inside.
Potato rösti (for 2-4 people as a side):
2-4 large potatoes (650 g)
1 scant tsp fine salt
a dash of freshly ground black pepper
1/4-1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1 tsp dried or fresh thyme
3-4 tbsp duck fat or clarified butter for frying
3 garlic cloves, sliced, and a small handful of chopped parsley to serve
cooking time: 25-30 minutes
Use large, rather starchy potatoes for this recipe. ‘Place a clean cloth/ kitchen towel over a bowl. Peel potatoes, and coarsely grate them onto the cloth. Squeeze out any excess water from the potatoes. Place potatoes in the bowl, season with salt, pepper, nutmeg and thyme, mix well.
In a heavy medium sized pan, heat 2 tbsp duck fat over medium heat. Add potatoes to the pan, shaping them to one single galette of about 2cm thickness that entirely fits the bottom of the pan. Fry for about 13 minutes over medium heat, or until the Rösti is golden from one side and loosens from the bottom of the pan (you may need to “help” it quite carefully with the pancake turner).
Make sure nothing sticks. Now place a large serving plate on top of your pan, flip it over, and set the rest aside for a moment. Add another tbsp of fat to the pan. Gently slide the rösti back into the pan, and continue to fry for another 10-12 minutes, or until golden from both sides. Slightly reduce heat if necessary – if it browns too fast, the potatoes will be undercooked in the center. Another tablespoon of fat might be a good idea for the last 5-6 minutes or so.
When almost ready, heat a little olive oil in a second (small) pan, gently fry sliced garlic until fragrant and lightly browned. Add a handful of chopped parsley, toss with the garlic for just 30 seconds or so.
Place rösti on a serving plate, decorate with the garlic-parsley-mixture (or just plain parsley) and serve immediately.