Don’t let the fancy name fool you, roesti (ROOSH-tee or RAW-stee) potatoes are simply hash browns or latkes by another name. The Swiss consider it their national dish, but it is no surprise that it has become popular all over the world.
This simple combination of potatoes, butter and salt can be absolutely extraordinary — crisp on the outside with a soft, melting interior. Because they are so good on their own, they need no other embellishment — although they can be turned into a complete meal with the addition of finely chopped onion, bacon or smoked ham, and thinly sliced cheese such as gruyere. Try them topped with a poached egg and chopped herbs.
All you really need for a good roesti, however, are some firm potatoes, shredded raw to make a good crust, and plenty of butter. Roesti potatoes make the perfect side dish to a stew, chop, roast or even other vegetables. The medium-to-high starch content of Yukon golds or russet potatoes are a good choice for a finished roesti.
Potatoes contain a lot of water, so after grating them (using the large holes of hand grater or the food processor) it’s important to squeeze out as much moisture as possible. I find that twisting them in a clean dishtowel or putting them in a ricer works very well.
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To cook roesti, get the butter hot and fill the pan gradually with just a small amount of shredded potatoes at a time spreading them in an even layer about a half-inch thick. Don’t stir the potatoes once you put them in the pan because this will prevent a crust from forming.
You need to adjust the heat so that the outside browns slowly, giving the inside enough time to steam to completion. Be patient and don’t flip to the other side too soon. If you are efficient at flipping pancakes, be my guest, otherwise slide the roesti out of the pan onto a dinner plate and return the pan to the heat and add another pat of butter. Put another plate on top of the roesti and, holding tightly, flip the plates over. Slide the inverted roesti back into the pan and continue cooking until the new bottom is browned and the potatoes feel tender in the middle when poked with a knife.
To make individual roesti, follow the directions above, but firmly shape into quarter-inch rounds and place in pan. Use a spatula to flip the rounds like pancakes. The roesti potatoes can be fried two hours in advance. Reheat before serving.
Red Curry Sea Bass with Potato Roesti
Adapted from Perfect Plates by John Whaite, Kyle Books ($29.95)
This is an excellent dish to match with a crisp Sterling 2015 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($14.99) with its aromas of stone fruit and citrus.
2 large baking potatoes
1/2 stick butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt flakes
Coarse black pepper
4 sea bass fillets
3 tablespoons red curry paste
Splash of olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Small handful of chopped fresh cilantro
1 lime, cut into wedges, to serve
Preheat the oven to 400F.
Peel the potatoes before coarsely grating them into a clean dishtowel or cheesecloth. Add a generous pinch of salt and pepper to the potatoes, tossing it through, then squeeze the towel as tightly as possible to remove all of the excess moisture from the spuds. Divide the potatoes into four portions. Heat 3 tablespoons oil and the butter in a large skillet over high heat. Once the fat is hot, reduce the heat to medium. Form the potatoes into four very tightly compacted patties. Fry each of the roesti for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, then drain on a piece of kitchen towel, and allow to cool for a few minutes.
Score the skin side of the fillets with four or five slashes, and put them into a mixing bowl. Coat the fish fillets in the red curry paste, along with a splash of oil and a pinch of pepper. Once they are well coated, place the fish onto a baking pan, along with the potato roesti, though don’t overcrowd the pan; if you have to use 2 baking pans, do so. Roast for 12 to 15 minutes, until the fish is cooked through. Serve the fish atop the roesti, scattered with some chopped cilantro, and a good squeeze of lime juice
Yield: 4 servings