Almost every trip I go on, I hone in on a food and go in search of the best version that city has to offer. From fish tacos in San Diego to poke in Honolulu, I get super determined about it. So, on my recent trip to Zurich, I was 100% focused on finding the best version of the local Swiss dish, Rösti, aka possibly the tastiest potato pancake ever created. At its best it's crispy and buttery and I found a lot of great versions: during breakfast at the Ambassador Hotel, a rustic dinner at Zeughauskeller, and during both of my two meals at Hiltl vegetarian restaurant.
My favorite rösti was at Hiltl and was a lot like the perfect French fry — crusty exterior and a soft, almost creamy interior — that is if a French fry and a hashbrown hybridized. Since I returned home, I did a lot of research about rösti and learned there are a ton of versions and beliefs about how to make the best one. Oh, and also that Zurich style is made with raw potatoes and nothing but butter and potatoes. After loads of potatoes and lots of ways to make it, I settled on this version that's Fall-ified with sage, thyme, and tons of crisp mushrooms. Sure, it's not a rösti in Zurich but it's pretty respectable, if I do say so myself.
stemmed and thinly sliced
(about 1 pound) rinsed and cut into 1/16th-inch matchsticks by hand or with a mandoline
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large well seasoned cast iron or nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and add half of the thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are golden brown, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, spread potatoes on a large microwave-safe plate and microwave on high heat until hot all the way through and softened but still slightly crunchy, about 5 minutes.
When the mushrooms are ready, remove from heat and set aside. Return the pan to the stove, add 1 tablespoon of the butter and place over medium-high heat. When it foams, add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and remaining thyme and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a small bowl and wipe out skillet.
Heat 1 tablespoon each oil and butter in the pan over medum heat until shimmering. Add half of potatoes and press into bottom of the pan with a rubber spatula. Season with salt and pepper. Spread onion mixture evenly over the potatoes and top with remaining potatoes. Press down into an even disk shape using a rubber spatula. Season top with salt and pepper.
Cook, swirling and shaking pan occasionally until deep golden brown and crisp on the first side, about 10 minutes. Carefully place a large cutting board of the pan, grip the sides (with some kitchen towels) and, carefully flip the pan so the rosti is now cooked-side up on the board. Heat remaining oil and butter in the skillet and slide rösti back in the pan. Continue cooking, swirling and shaking pan occasionally until deep golden brown and crisp on the second side, about 8 minutes longer. Slide rösti to a cutting board. Serve immediately with sour cream and mushrooms.
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