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Feta & Bacon Potato Rösti

Posted Sep 30 2009 8:16pm

A 4-pound tub of feta sounded like a perfectly reasonable purchase to me. I love feta cheese, so when my friend Eralda was getting ready to place an 8-pound order, and asked if I wanted to split it, I replied with an immediate and emphatic "yes!"

Unfortunately, Kevin was home when she delivered the goods a few days later. I hadn't planned on hiding the feta, but I did have thoughts of camouflage. Kevin does not typically stand and stare into the refrigerator the way that I do, so I was hoping that the strategic placement of a few jars of mustard and, perhaps, a sippy cup, would distract him from the mammoth container.

He stared at the label on the lid, nonplussed.

"Please tell me that's not really filled with 4 pounds of feta."

I swallowed, then replied that lying is a sin.

"So, what, we're going to eat feta for a month?!"

Exactly, dear husband!

"I promise, you'll love it."

He sighed--he's grown used to most of my kitchen hijinks--and retreated to the living room with a Sam Adams and the New York Review of Books.

To be fair, I've been eating my fill of feta at breakfast (in omelets and scrambles) and lunch (crumbled over salads and soups). But I also stuck to my promise to use it in things I felt sure Kevin would love, too. Combining it with bacon, potatoes, and some of the sage Kevin himself planted in the pots out back, seemed like a wise route. To knock it out of the park, I settled on one of his favorite dishes: Swiss Potato Rösti.

Rösti is made with potatoes which are grated and, depending on the frying technique, possibly mixed with some butter or fat (and usually salt and pepper), or fried in oil later. The grated potatoes can be shaped into rounds or patties, or simply shaped into one large round inside of a skillet. Although the basic rösti consists of nothing but potato, a number of additional ingredients are sometimes added, such as bacon, onions, cheese, apples or fresh herbs.

I produced several disastrous röstis early in my cooking career: gummy and burnt are the adjectives that come to mind. I found it especially difficult to get the raw potatoes crisp on the outside but cooked and tender on the inside. Then came graduate school, where I met Emmy, a Zürich-born business school student who was a regular in my kickboxing classes. I do not remember how we landed on the subject of rösti, but I do recall her advice for perfecting it: par-boil the potatoes.

Wunderbar! My rösti has been a quick and scrumptious success ever since.

And Kevin was forced to admit (granted, with prodding) that this particular rösti was especially delicious with the addition of feta.

Feta & Bacon Potato Rösti

2 pounds medium-sized russet potatoes
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
8 fresh sage leaves
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
4 ounces feta cheese (you could use goat cheese, too)

Boil the potatoes in their skins in a large pot of boiling water for 20-25 minutes, until just tender. Leave to cool, peel, then coarsely grate into a bowl.

Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a medium non-stick frying pan, add the onion and bacon and and cook & stir about 7-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened and just beginning to brown. Stir in the sage leaves and remove from the heat.

Stir the onion, bacon and any juices left in the pan into the grated potato. Season with salt and pepper and mix well.

Heat 1 tbsp of oil in the frying pan, add half the potato mixture and spread over the pan. Crumble the feta into small pieces, then sprinkle evenly over the potatoes. Spread the remaining potato over the top to cover the cheese and press down lightly with the back of a wooden spoon.

Cook the rösti over a moderate heat for about 8-9 minutes until the underside is nicely browned (lift with a spatula and peak), then put a large plate on top and invert the rösti onto it. Add a touch more of oil to the pan if it looks like it needs it, then slide the rösti back into the pan and cook the other side for 8-9 minutes. Serve the rösti straight from the pan, cut into wedges, with green vegetables or a big green leaf salad. Makes 6 servings.
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