What is it about sledding hills that brings out the Evel Knievel in children? My boys — who have a rather nicely developed sense of self-preservation — become more than just a little reckless when you stand them at the top of an ice covered mountain with a sled in their hands. The danger of it seems to be part of the appeal.
They happily assess the risk each slope presents, giving higher marks to more potentially dreadful paths. They joyfully compare close calls and ‘war-stories’ and rips rent in their winter gear by gnarly random roots. They even have a sing-songy motto they shout before they take the running leap onto their sled at the precipice, “Don’t cry if you break your nose!”
Mercifully, no noses have been broken, and the worst injury to date was when my seven-year-old tripped and went down the hill on his chin rather than his posterior.
The payoff for them is pure, unadulterated fun. The payoff for me allowing the fun — because I’d prefer the pre-sled routine to involve bubble wrap, protective goggles, and crash-helmets on each head — is seeing their shining eyes, flushed cheeks, and serious swagger as they cross the field toward home. There is no triumph that feels quite like laughing in the face of (real or perceived) mortal harm. And there is no better celebration than a table laden with warm, filling, hearty foods to welcome those princes and princesses of the sledding realm.
What to place on the table, then for such conquering heroes? The Swiss are a natural reference, since they spend a great deal of time skiing and sledding and flinging themselves down the Alps. They’re not just mountain goats, though, they are also known for a vast repertoire of rustic, hearty, simple foods that delight the senses.
Roesti (pronounced ROO’-shtee) — one of these popular dishes — is the perfect après-sled gnosh. With a crispy exterior and creamy interior made only of potatoes, onions, butter, salt and pepper, Roesti exist as proof that the best things are often the simplest things.
Serve Roesti sliced in pie shaped wedges as a stand-alone snack with sour cream or serve alongside roasts or soups.
Yield: 4 servings of 2 slices each
- 5 Yukon gold potatoes (about 1-1/2 pounds of potatoes), scrubbed clean
- 1 medium yellow cooking onion, peeled with ends removed
- 3 tablespoons plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided (You can choose to substitute olive oil for half of the butter, if you wish.)
- salt and black pepper, preferably freshly ground, to taste
Use the coarse side of a box grater or the coarse grating blade on a food processor to grate the potatoes and onions. Scrape the potatoes and onions into the center of a clean tea towel, gather up the edges and twist the top together over the sink. Continue twisting while squeezing the potatoes and onions until you cannot squeeze any more liquid from it.
Place a well-seasoned 8-10 inch cast-iron skillet or heavy-bottomed 8-10 inch nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Place 3 tablespoons of butter in the pan to melt.
Turn the contents of the tea towel into a clean bowl and stir in black pepper and salt to taste (about ½ teaspoon of each should be the maximum at this stage.) Add the potato mixture to the pan and use a sturdy wooden spoon or spatula to press firmly and evenly into the pan. Do not stir the potatoes; just press them down vigorously to form a caked layer in the pan. Allow to cook over medium heat for 7-10 minutes, or until deep brown in color and crisp on the bottom. Lay a large plate over the pan and –wearing oven mitts on both hands – clasp the plate to the pan and carefully invert the whole works. The Roesti should be uncooked side down on the plate.
Return the pan to the heat and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, allowing it to melt before proceeding. Slide the uncooked side of the Roesti into the pan, press down again with the spoon or spatula and continue cooking over medium heat for another 4-8 minutes. The bottom should be quite crisp and deep brown in color. Remove to a cutting board and let stand for five minutes before slicing into pie-shaped wedges.
If you’re looking to gild your Roesti lily, you might want to give my latest addiction a try. Bacon Jam is a salty-and-sweet, smoky, chewy bacon spread. Not sure what to think about that? Imagine times when you had a cup of coffee next to a plate full of pancakes and a couple strips of bacon or some home fries on the side. More likely than not, you’ve slid your bacon through the maple syrup and eaten it. And even more likely, you loved it. This is like all that in one very habit-forming package.