There are two truly wonderful things about working in restaurant kitchens. One, the sheer volume of people that you get to work with, like fellow cooks, and guests, and farmers, and vendors, and dishwashers, and delivery truck drivers, and on, and on. Two, that every one of those people can teach you something new about cooking.
Arguably the national dish of Switzerland, rösti is a crispy-edged potato pancake, effectively hash browns in skillet form. Most traditionally, rösti is made by browning grated potato in a hearty amount of goose fat or butter (or both if you’ve really been hitting the Alpine peaks). It’s meant to be cut into wedges and shared, compared to something very much akin to a latke, which is individually sized and often bound with egg and flour, neither of which are needed here.
One day, in the restaurant, we were thinking up a menu item that would use up a glut of potatoes, that was also vegan and gluten-free. Allison Scott brought up the technique of using cornstarch to bind a root vegetable cake, because she had learned it from Josh Kulp and Christine Chikowski when she worked for them at Sunday Dinner Club in Chicago. We ended up blending potatoes with sweet potatoes because Beth Eckles from Green Acres in Indiana had come in earlier that day with the most delicious tubers we’d ever tried. We added dill because a guest over-heard us talking and said that his grandmother was Polish and always used dill and sour cream in her latkes. We piled greens on top because everything is better with a pile of greens, especially to balance out a big spoonful of sour cream. It was our version of stone soup with everyone adding just a little bit.
This dish is a play on that original collaboration. Sweet potatoes naturally walk the line between sweet and savory. So do apples. Both love black pepper, so I go a bit heavier here than in most recipes. You could gild the lily by adding a handful of grated cheddar or raclette to the top of the rosti before it goes into the oven, but it isn’t necessary. Or you could serve cranberry sauce on the side to make it extra wintery-festive.
This is what we make every year the night we decorate the house for the holidays. I pull out the raclette machine, fry up some rosti, and tuck in for a cozy night, thinking of all folks who have shared their recipes, their food, their time, and their labor to help make dinner better. —abraberens
- Prep time 30 minutes
- Cook time 20 minutes
- Serves 4
sweet potatoes, washed but not peeled
apples, cut from the core but not peeled
(2 ounces) unsalted butter (or substitute neutral oil)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
dill, roughly chopped
baby kale, spinach, or arugula
Extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly squeezed lemon juice or vinegar
- Heat oven to 375°F.
- With a box grater or the grating blade of a food processor, grate the sweet potatoes and apples. Toss the grated sweet potato and apple with the cornstarch to coat evenly.
- Heat a tablespoon or so of the butter or splash of oil in a large, ovenproof frying pan (I like cast-iron) over medium-high heat. When the butter is foamy or the oil warm, swirl to evenly coat the pan. Place half of the grated mixture into the pan, pressing it firmly to make good contact with the cooking surface and go all the way to the edges. Season liberally with salt, pepper, and the chopped dill. Add a few more knobs of butter or drizzles of oil to the edges of the pan, ensuring that the rosti browns evenly. Add the rest of the grated mixture, again pressing in firmly. Season the top with salt and pepper.
- Allow the rosti to start to brown without disturbing the bottom, about 4 minutes. Transfer to the oven and bake until the sweet potatoes are cooked through, about 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and let set for 3 to 4 minutes.
- While the rosti is cooling, dress the greens with a glug of olive oil, a splash of vinegar or squeeze of lemon, and a few pinches of salt and black pepper.
- Invert the rosti onto a serving platter. Cut the rosti into wedges and serve with a big dollop of sour cream and pile of dressed greens on top.