How to Make a Rösti Like A Swiss Mountain Guide

Rosti is a Swiss potato dish that looks like a giant potato pancake and tastes like the best kind of hash browns imaginable. Made with modest, inexpensive ingredients that can be stored for long periods of time without refrigeration, rösti is well-suited to wilderness living. Eat it pure, or spice it up with wild onion, strongly flavoured cheeses, foraged wild greens or imported spices like nutmeg or ground paprika! This versatile dish pairs well with eggs, venison, beef or sausage to make a full and hearty meal suitable for adventurers.

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How to Make a Open Fire Rösti

When I walked across Switzerland, I sampled at least twenty Rösti in various auberges and mountain restaurants and I can attest that many of them were made with lard, particularly in the Swiss-German areas of Switzerland.

We happen to have an obscene amount of lard in the fridge right now, so we will make our rösti with lard. However, you should know that many Swiss chefs also use butter and both variations are deliciously different. Use what you have on hand and make your own tradition.

Gather Your Ingredients:

You will need:

6-8 Starchy Potatoes (like Russet, Yukon Gold…)

4-6 Tbsp Rendered Lard

Salt to Taste, Possibly A Bit of Pepper

 

Find Your Tools:

Go and get:

A Large Pot (For Parboiling Potatoes)

A Grater (With Large Holes)

A Stainless Steel Bowl

A Cast Iron Frying Pan

A Spatula or Wooden Flipper

A Plate (Larger Enough To Cover The Frying Pan)

 

Step 1: Parboil The Potatoes

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Boil the potatoes for about 8 minutes.

Parboiling the potatoes makes them easier to grate (see step 2). Once, I was told firmly by an elderly Swiss woman that I should have cooked my potatoes the the night before and refrigerated them overnight in order to achieve an optimal flavour.

Just be careful not to overcook!

Al dente is all that’s required- I let them boil of 8 minutes. Mushy potatoes will lose their form as they cook, turning into a brick-like mass and fails to crispen.

Step 2: Grate the Potatoes

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Grate the potatoes by hand with a large-hole grater. Add salt and pepper.

Grate the peeled raw potatoes into a bowl. The grating style is an important detail:

Try to get the longest, loveliest lengths of potato possible.  A food processor will not be able to achieve the texture you can get by hand-grating potatoes with a large-hole grater. When you are next in Switzerland, you can purchase a special “rösti-grater” in a hardware store- until then, use the biggest holes you have.

Add any salt and pepper to the bowl. Add goodies like wild onions, foraged greens or spices.

Step 3: Melt a Lump of Lard

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Pre-heat the cast iron frying pan. Melt 2 Tbsp of lard (pig fat).

Heat up your pan evenly on the open fire coals. Melt some lard- be generous. Think less of your waistline and more about your grandmother’s love for lard and how much you care about your cast iron frying pan.

Also, look into the future and see that Step 8 requires a “flip.” The lard will help protect your rösti creation from becoming a stuck or charcoal mess.

Step 4: Stir-In the Potatoes

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Stir the potatoes around in the melted lard.

Add the potatoes to the melted lard and stir for about 1 minute. The fat will look like it is getting completely soaked up but don’t worry. You probably added enough already.

You are not really trying to cook the potatoes here- just covering them evenly with lard.

Step 5: Start Working Your Potato Pancake

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Gently pat the potatoes down.

Press and pat the grated potatoes into a pancake-like form. Work around the edge and check the temperature regularly. Keep it relatively low and cook it slowly for an appropriate length of time (depends on your fire but aim for 20-30 minutes).

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Wet the edges with a bit of extra lard to prevent them from burning.

Turn the handle of the cast iron frying pan regularly (use a towel or oven mits!) to ensure an even heat distribution.

Step 6: Cover For A Creamier, Well-Cooked Middle

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Cover and cook over a low heat.

When working on an open fire, the rösti may need to be cooked with a lid in order to achieve a fully cooked, creamy delicious middle. Balance your desire for lid-covered cooking with some uncovered cooking- so that you get a crispy outside too. I recommend half covered, and half uncovered. Covering can also be done with your flipping plate.

Step 7: Prepare to Flip

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Place a plate or cutting board on top of the frying pan.

When the rösti is starting to brown around the edge, I do a sneaky check under my giant pancake to see if it is holding together properly and making sure it is not stuck to the bottom anywhere. This is probably bad form but I’m being honest.

The grated potatoes will not hold together as well as pancake batter, so one must proceed tenderly or you will rip the rösti.

If you have added too much fat, you may have a problem of escaping hot fat when you go to flip your rösti. Don’t burn yourself with flying liquid fat- drain off any excess fat before you flip.

When you feel that you have a reasonable chance of success, prepare yourself mentally, place a plate over your rösti and hope for the best. Good luck my friend. Flip over your bundle and make the rösti land on the plate.

Step 8: Check The Result- Tears of Loss or Tears of Joy?

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Flip over your plate-frying pan bundle.

At this point, you will know the future of your meal. It will either:

  • look like a slightly misshapen circle sitting on a plate with its beautiful, brown side staring up at you
  • or, look like a disjointed mess, half stuck to the frying pan and half stuck to the plate

As a comfort to the failed flipper, I just want to reassure you that most people mess up their first few rösti flips. There is a real art to the flip- it could serve as a Swiss citizenship test. If you missed it this time, try again next hike or in the privacy of your kitchen at home. Turn this disaster into amazing hash browns- it will still be really tasty.

Step 9: Slide The Rösti Back Into The Frying Pan

With the rösti sitting on the plate, you’re only halfway done. Melt some more lard- a little bit less than last time (1-2 Tbsp). Slide the Rösti off the plate and back into the frying pan.

The rösti may fight you- especially if you wait to take pictures of your success and it cools a bit. Use a big flipper if you need to encourage it to dislodge. Once it decides to start moving, it’s going to slide really fast- so be ready with the plate in exactly the right spot.

Step 10: Cook the Bottom of the Rösti

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Cook the bottom.

Cook the bottom until golden brown. Try not to cover- unless the rösti is looking dangerously under-cooked. Covering now may kill its crispiness.

Some Swiss will crack an egg on top of the Rösti at this point. I’m not sure of the magical details that produce the fully cooked egg but if you want to try this fancy trick, the rösti flip probably has to be uber-fast so that the potatoes are piping hot. I’m guessing that you may have to cover it too.

Serve It Hot

The rösti is best served piping hot. Slice it into triangle wedges like a pizza.

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Bon apetit! En Guete! Buon appetitio!

– Carmen Lazzarotto

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