Though it might sound rhetorical to call a basic dish of “hashbrowns”- vegan Rösti, the clarity is needed. A long standing tradition of the Swiss favorite traditional dish is the Rösti. American’s call it hashbrowns, funeral potatoes or casserol. All are quite similar to Rösti, but Rösti is just a bit finer.
Rösti is said to have originated in Bern as a ‘farmer’s’ meal-one that has stuck with the ages. I belive the connection makes perfect sense. The farmer comes in from the cold Fall or Winter day, and sits down to a hot plate of Rösti. This plate is warming you from the inside out, and it’s satisfying your growing hunger from the hard work outside. Delicious indeed and it’s a meal that will sustain you well into the next meal time.
Potato’s are the German version of Italian’s and Polenta…affordable
For centuries, potato’s were the affordable crop. Just as the Italian’s relied on polenta to get through the tough times, the German’s lived off potato’s. A little went a long way in feeding a hungry family. In addition to their affordability, potatoes can bee cooked up and served so many ways. From skillet potatoes, to fries-every dish has its place in the belly. But, vegan Rösti just might be my favorite method. Now over the years, this dish has been “tweaked” to the likes of each Canton.
In the French or Italian part of Switzerland, Rösti will be served with cubes of ham, and cooked in the oil of the bacon. While in the German regions, this dish tends to be served with fried onions (either mixed in the potato’s, or sauteed separately). In Bern, the founding Canton of Rösti, you will find it served plain or topped with Gruyere cheese. After all, farmer’s had easy-access to cheese and butter.
Traditional versions will always be cooked in a heavy non-stick pan, cooked along with lots of melted butter. Don’t forget, butter was the cheapest fat source back then for the farmer. But in addition to cheap, butter also brings flavor to this dish. In fact butter is something most Swiss would never consider eliminating in this recipe. But, if you’re a vegan, butter just isn’t an option. The cooking method of this dish is uni-lateral though, and it’s always “flipped”. Some prefer the free-style flip method in the air. While another safer option is to flip it on a dish, then re-invert the uncooked side to more melted butter.
My cooking method for the Vegan Rösti is a bit more conservative. I have found that my rusty-trusty non-stick skillet I hauled over the pond with me from America is the perfect pan for this dish. I’m avoiding the non-stick pan for my personal beliefs and health reasons, and in addition, my cooking in general is light on the oil. So, I’ve invented a method that accommodates both my lifestyle practices and my dietary needs.
Through a bit of fore-thought I’ve had to re-think my process. I decided the best way to get the Rösti result is for me to layered the preparation method. (I’ll describe more in the recipe section how to properly cook this dish). Yes, I’ve evaded the traditional method here, but who knows, maybe that’s also how they first started. However with my method, you must start with pre-cooked potato’s. It not only cooks faster, but there is really no need to flip. I can achieve perfect results just by finishing this dish off in the oven.
Make Rösti your way
One can surely conclude that this traditional Swiss dish comes with many choices here. With cheese, with bacon, with ham, with onions…but that’s the beauty. Customize this dish to what best suits you and your dietary needs. For my needs it’s the animal-free, non-stick pan method along with very little fat. I like to serve this dish with a side of apple-sauce and a lovely winter salad. Nothing is more warming to the belly than a delicious plate of fresh made Rösti.
- 8-10 medium potatoes figure 2-3 per person
- 2-3 TBS olive oil extra virgin
- 2-3 cloves garlic crushed
- 1 small onion diced
- salt and pepper
- pressure cooker
- cast-iron skillet
- First step is to cook your potato's in a pressure cooker for about 8 minutes-not too soft they fall apart, but soft enough to shred. After they are cooked, drain the water and let them stand in cold water for about 5 minutes. this allows you to shred them with out burning your fingers.
- in the cast iron, sautee the onions and garlic along with the oil.
- when potato's are done, shred them all.
- Begin your layer process by taking half the shredded potato's and mixing them with the sauteed onion and garlic. Add salt, stir around then flatten with a spatula meeting the shreded potato's end to end of the pan.
- add your next bit of olive oil, then the rest of the potato's. Add another bit of fresh crushed garlic if desired and a bit more salt and pepper.
- put into the hot oven and let bake for about 20 minutes with heat on top/bottom and it begins to brown.
- The final 5 minutes, switch the heat to convection and let it finish up to a golden, crispy finish.
- cut and serve.