A Virginia chef breaks down the Swiss staple
Perfecting rösti is a practice in restraint. The Swiss dish, in essence a grated potato pancake, has just four ingredients (and that’s counting salt and pepper). It’s easy to make—and just as easy to mess up, says Brittanny Anderson, a Richmond chef who’s made a name for herself exploring Southern food’s Germanic influences through her debut restaurant, Metzger Bar & Butchery, and the more Alpine-focused Brenner Pass. She geeks out over their culinary connections, whether it’s whole-animal butchery traditions or tracing pimento cheese’s roots to its Old Country cousin, obatzda cheese.
While rösti recipes vary a bit by cook, these are the basics: Press shredded potato into a skillet slicked with fat. Let the resulting patty cook until crispy. Flip. Repeat. Easy, right? Not so fast. In those simple steps lies many a potential pitfall. But because Anderson has to churn out rösti on the regular for weekend brunch at Brenner, she’s learned how to dodge them. It starts with the potato. Go with Yukon Golds; they hold their texture and do a lot of the work for you. She preps them en masse, so her recipe calls for par boiling before shredding (it prevents the potato from oxidizing). While not as critical for the home cook, the parboil will help speed up fry time.
The beauty of rösti is its texture—crisp on the outside, tender but with distinct strands on the inside—which means it’s paramount you don’t overcook the potatoes at the outset. The type of pan matters too. If your cast iron isn’t generously seasoned from years of use, go nonstick; it’ll make flipping easier. Another helping hand: “Fat is your friend,” Anderson says. “Don’t be afraid of it. You’re never going to have too much.” She digs duck fat for its rich flavor and high smoke point. But you could also go with beef tallow or clarified butter.
Now comes the tricky part: resisting the urge to poke and prod the rösti while it cooks. “It’s a hard habit to break,” Anderson admits. Let the rösti cook a full five minutes before gently lifting the edge to check its progress. When it’s ready to flip, grab a plate for inverting (no need to go airborne here) and repeat. Come time to serve, rösti always pairs well with fried eggs. Or, take a cue from Anderson and serve topped with smoked fish, crème fraîche, caviar, and fresh herbs.
While most rösti recipes begin with a box grater, Anderson prefers the long, elegant strands of potato cut on a spiralizer.