The rösti potato, a thick shredded potato pancake with a crispy crust and molten potato interior, has been chiseled into my culinary foundation. I learned to make a rösti at Park Avenue Cafe. It was trial by fire and every day I was burned. From shredding 100 large potatoes to rinsing the starch to finding, (well earning and chiseling out space) on the flattop to for 50 cast iron skillets to begin production of over 75 rösti. I cooked the potatoes in clarified butter. If I rushed a step then the rösti would transform from idyllic hash browns into clear evidence of a young cook's shortcomings. The key to the rösti is paying attention to each step and not rushing the process. I learned that I needed to get to work earlier to provide myself with the cushion needed to perfect the potatoes.
After Park Ave, I landed in the kitchen of Clio. Ken wanted to serve a rösti with roasted cod. Except he upped the game. He wanted his rösti stuffed with fresh cod brandade. A brilliant idea. And I was back on rösti duty. While the amount of production was less, my overall workload was more. Once again I learned to get to work even earlier.
Recently I was tasked with looking at the rösti again. My culinary experiences forced me to look clearly at the elements of the rösti: what kind of potato, how big, what kind of pan, what kind of fat to cook it in, and to ask if we should stuff it? Having the basics pounded into me and having intimate acquaintance with the flaws of the process allowed me to look in new directions that I might not have considered without the weight of my experiences behind me.
January 27, 2005