From the Steakhouse to Waffle House
Whether it's a rösti or a hash brown, these five-minute potatoes should be in your arsenal
Can potatoes be your favorite vegetable? I have a hard time choosing, but there’s probably no food I cook more often and in more varieties than a good tuber. The more I cook, the more I fixate on “perfect potatoes” - either perfectly crispy, perfectly mashed, or perfectly fried. However, for a humble crop, potatoes can be difficult to do well. The whims of starch, water and skin are capricious and unyielding; if you don’t have two sticks of butter or an hour in the oven to spare, it’s dangerously easy to end up with gloppy mashed potatoes or the unwelcome interior of a raw Yukon gold.
There are many potato recipes that turn out great with minimal effort - smashed baby potatoes come to mind - but it took me far too long to arrive at the ultimate express route to potato bliss. You can call it a potato rösti, if it’s mid-winter and you’re conjuring up visions of a Swiss chalet; you can call it a hash brown, if you’re a few drinks in and dreaming of Waffle House. (My personal preference: smothered, covered, and peppered.) Either way, it’s crispy, hot, salty and fluffy, and it definitely belongs in both your weeknight and dinner party repertoires.
I’m in the chalet mindset these days so I’m calling it a rösti, but adaptability is king. It works as well with a good steak (in the style of Keens) as it does with roast chicken or pan-seared fish, or no animal protein at all. Most importantly, it only requires four things - a non-stick pan, clarified butter, potatoes, and salt - and comes together in about five minutes. It may be the best possible way to cook potatoes.
2 russet potatoes (serves approx. two people)
2 tablespoons of clarified butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
White truffle oil (optional)
Peel the potatoes completely. Do not wash them or submerge them in water, as you want to retain as much starch as possible to bind the rösti together in the pan. This should only be done right before cooking.
Grate each potato into a bowl; try to get lengthy strips of potato using one long motion against the grater, rather than finely grated pieces.
Salt the potatoes right before dropping them into a large non-stick pan.
Once the clarified butter is sufficiently hot (it should shimmer in the pan), place the shredded potato in an even layer.
When the underside of the potato is a deep brown color (this should take about 2-3 minutes), flip it with a fish spatula. When the other side is ready, remove with the fish spatula and either plate directly (if serving immediately) or onto a sheet pan with a wire rack. It can be kept in a warm oven for a bit, but it is best served immediately.
Top with truffle oil if using, a few extra flakes of fleur de sel and freshly ground black pepper, and very thinly sliced chives.