I think potatoes single-handedly got me through “Cuisine Intermediaire” at Le Cordon Bleu, and for that, they will always have a special place in my heart.
The way LCB works is pretty simple. Each lesson involves a 3-hour demonstration in a “classroom,” followed by a 3-hour practical in the kitchen. In the demonstration, a chef prepares multiple recipes, while the students observe and frantically take notes in preparation for cooking the same recipes themselves in the practical. The demo concludes with a tasting, and everyone must try each recipe so that they know exactly what it’s supposed to taste like. (Note: You are not allowed to have food allergies or dietary restrictions at LCB.) All of these activities are done while wearing a very sexy uniform and an even sexier hairnet.
For whatever reason, the intermediate term at LCB focused primarily on fish preparations. Every recipe began with the whole fish, and many involved the super fun French tradition of stuffing fish with other fish. This meant that I was regularly force-fed things like salmon mousse at 9am, which was rather stressful given my general aversion to whipped fish and my perpetual Parisian hangover. (As I’ve mentioned before, the thrilling 2010-2012 portion of my memoir shall be entitled “Hungover in Paris: That Shit Cray.”)
The only silver lining to this fish-heavy semester was the amount of potatoes involved. By some miracle, a number of ze poisson recipes incorporated a festive potato side—from pommes frites and buttery puree to crispy pancakes and gnocchi. There was even a particularly glorious day where we deep-fried little balls of cheesy mashed potatoes. I may or may not have shrieked dramatically during that demo to warn the chef—who had become distracted playing with a fish—that he was scorching his potato balls(!!!). Priorities, dammit.
Honestly, I’ve always loved potatoes, but my appreciation for them deepened substantially during this traumatic, fishy time in my life. I took much needed solace in their simplicity, consistent deliciousness, and stomach-soothing starch content, and to this day, potatoes remain my go-to comfort food. It’s impossible to pick a favorite potato recipe (Sophie’s choice!), but I find myself especially drawn to anything in the crispy camp, and few things (potato or otherwise) excite me more than a good old-fashioned rosti.
In case you’re not familiar with the term “rosti” (no judgment), it’s simply fancy Swiss lingo for hash browns. We made miniature rosti at some point in my culinary training, but I’ve now grown partial to making BIG ONES, like the rosti you see on your screen.
This particular rosti is 10-inches of crispy hash brown heaven, friends, and it’s more than worthy of all your favorite expletives adjectives. The crunchy, golden brown crust on this bad boy gives way to an interior that’s melt-in-your-mouth tender, and the potatoes are stuffed with a surprise layer of melted leeks, fresh thyme, and creamy goat cheese. Whether you serve it for brunch (Mother’s Day??!) with an egg on top, or for dinner with a big green salad (or a piece of fish…), I promise you’re in for some seriously ego-boosting compliments. So please take this rosti for a spin, stat.
p.s. Don’t be afraid of the flip! It’s quick and painless, and there are zero spatula or one-handed flipping skillz required. To flip the rosti, simply cover your skillet with a large dinner plate, invert the rosti onto the plate, and then slide it back into the pan. Done and done.