Potato pancakes can fry the cook to a frazzle. Too floppy, too flat, too forlorn. These frustrations can be fixed with proper technique — from correct temperature to correct temperament. Or the cook can book a vacation.
Rosti, national pancake of Switzerland, packs up such troubles. It’s one big fat Frisbee that crisps up with ease. It calls for two ingredients (potato and fat), two pots (to boil and brown) and two skills (wait and flip).
The wait is simple. And so is the flip. All it takes are sturdy mitts and a slug of confidence. Like a trip to the Alps, it’s kinda fun.
Rosti (Big Swiss Potato Pancake)
Prep: 30 minutes. Chill: 1 hour. Cook: 40 minutes. Makes: 4 servings
3 medium russet potatoes (about 2 pounds)
2 teaspoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons duck fat (or substitute canola oil)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Boil: Settle potatoes in a large pot. Fill with cold water to cover potatoes by 1 inch. Sprinkle in 1 tablespoon salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until tender (poke with a skewer), about 20 minutes. Drain potatoes. Chill, uncovered, until cool, about 1 hour.
Grate: Using the large holes of a box grater, shred potatoes (skin will slip off as you work). Toss potato shreds with 1 teaspoon salt and the melted butter.
Crisp: Remember that duck fat you saved last week, after roasting duck breast? Smart move. Warm 1 tablespoon duck fat (or oil) and 1 tablespoon butter in an 8-inch nonstick skillet set over medium-low heat. Swirl to coat bottom and sides of skillet. Drop in shredded potatoes and press into one big cake. Cook, shaking skillet frequently, until edges turn golden, 20-22 minutes.
Flip: Cover skillet with an inverted flat plate. Using oven mitts and a measure of bravura, hold plate and skillet tightly together. Flip, landing rosti, crisp-side up, on the plate. Return skillet to heat; slide in remaining 1 tablespoon duck fat (or oil) and remaining 1 tablespoon butter; swirl to coat bottom and sides of pan. Slip rosti into skillet, crisp side up. Tuck in any stray potato fringe. Cook, shaking pan regularly, until second side turns golden, about 20 minutes.
Serve: Slide rosti onto a cutting board. Sprinkle with a little salt. Cut into wedges. Nice alongside roast meat. Or that duck breast.