The book:  The Food Lab, by J. Kenji López-Alt (W. W. Norton & Co., $49.95)

The recipe:  Crispy potato cake, or rösti

Why I tried itTo tell the truth, it was not the first time I’d made, or eaten, rösti, the Swiss potato dish that’s like a better class of hash browns, or a less decadent latke.  I confess it was the microwave step that made me do it, this time.  I’m as vulnerable as anyway to the Kenji gee-whiz ethos, and if nuking the grated potatoes was going to make me some rösti to kill for, or to die for, then I was in.

Why I loved it:  The reason I, a rösti lover, never made rösti much till this year, is that there are steps – grating, rinsing, squeezing, drying, maybe a stint in the oven.  And it’s something I like to eat in the morning, when I can’t handle steps.  Catch me at 4 pm and sure, I’ll make puff pastry, but at 7 in the morning?  I don’t think so.  Anyway, the Kenji technique takes away practically all the fuss.  You peel and grate the potato, nuke it for 4 or 5 minutes, and then cook it on both sides in a hot oiled skillet.

If you’ve made a small, one-potato rösti, you don’t even need a plate to invert it, you can just flip it with a turner.  Of course, if you’ve made a small, one-potato rösti, don’t bother cleaning up because you’re just going to have to make another as soon as you’ve finished the first.

Estimated preparation time:  25 minutes, maybe 20 if you’ve already had your coffee. 

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FoodLab_page 135Crispy potato cake (aka rösti)
Serves 2 or 3

3 medium russet (baking) potatoes (about 1 pound), rinsed and cut into 1⁄16-inch matchsticks or grated on the large holes of a box grater
¼ cup olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Spread the potatoes on a large microwave-safe plate and microwave on high until hot all the way through and softened but still slightly crunchy, about 5 minutes.

2. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the potatoes and press into the bottom of the pan with a rubber spatula. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, swirling and shaking the pan occasionally, until the potatoes are deep golden brown and crisp on the first side, about 7 minutes. Carefully slide the rösti onto a large plate. Set another plate on top of it, upside down, grip the edges, and invert the whole thing so the rösti is now cooked side up.

3. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in the skillet and slide the rösti back in. Season with salt and pepper. Continue cooking, swirling and shaking the pan occasionally, until the rösti is deep golden brown and crisp on the second side, about 7 minutes longer. Slide onto a cutting board and serve immediately, with aioli or mayonnaise, or ketchup.

Recipe and images from The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt. Copyright © 2015 by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt. With permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.