Potato Rosti with Pancetta and Mozzarella
I am very sad to inform you that at 9:17 pm EST on Sunday, September 15, 2013, I saw a mouse in my apartment.
I was happily watching a movie with my roommate, when the aforementioned intruder casually walked across my living room and turned the corner into the hallway. I alerted Logan to the emergency at hand, to which his immediate reaction was, “Go see where it went! You have shoes on!!!” This wasn’t exactly the take-charge response I was hoping for, but whatever. He eventually got off the couch to assess the situation, wielding a cardboard box (not sure what he planned on doing with that deadly weapon), and after a minute or so, he announced that the mouse had disappeared. This was very discomforting. Mice don’t just “disappear.” They hide, and then they come back.
They always come back.
Logan tried to console me by saying that the mouse probably squeezed out of the apartment under the base of our front door. I found this to be unlikely because that opening is about ¼ of an inch high, but he assured me that mice have “squishy bones.” I spent the rest of the night Googling things like, “How squishy are mouse bones?” and “Can mice kill you?” It was stressful.
If you’re thinking that a mouse isn’t that big of a deal or that mice are kind of cute, just stop. A mouse is a very big deal, and they are not remotely cute. I’m not really an animal person to begin with (which I’ve tried to keep on the DL on this blog, but it’s true), and I despise rodents. Even as a five-year-old, I would visibly recoil when kids brought their pet mice/rats/hamsters/gerbils to school for show-and-tell, which I found weird and gross. And when I “misbehaved” as a teenager, my mom constantly threatened to send me to the Jackson Laboratory in Maine as an intern, specifically because there are a lot of mice there. Terrifying. So, as you can imagine, seeing a mouse in my apartment is actually my worst nightmare.
Sadly, this is not the first time I’ve had to deal with mice in an apartment. In the doorless wonder (aka my last humble abode), I once spotted a very fat mouse or rat (I’m not the best at identifying rodents) scurry out from under the bed and disappear behind the refrigerator. Having never survived a rodent home invasion before, I experienced a range of emotions, including but not limited to, disgust, fear, rage, and self-pity.
Naturally, my first instinct was to call Logan, who I assumed would tell me how to deal with this emergency. His helpful advice was, “Get on the bed! Stay there until I get home!” I mean, I didn’t really see how that would help the situation, but I took the precaution anyway, keeping my panic at a manageable level by reasoning that a mouse would not be able to scale my 14-inch bed frame. I find it surprisingly easy to lie to myself.
After that scare, I felt like I was squatting in a mice hotel for the duration of my tenancy on Horatio Street. Although I couldn’t see them, I was convinced that there was a family of mice living under the bed, or worse, in my closet. I mostly blame my dad for this fear because when I told him I had seen a mouse in my apartment, he said, “You know, there’s never just one…” Honestly, that was kind of a douchey thing to say when you know your child is terrified of rodents, but it did light a fire under my ass to do everything in my power to keep the mice at bay, specifically getting the landlord to fill in the hole in the floor around our radiator. I felt safer, but I could never fully shake the feeling that there were “things” in that apartment.
As I have mentioned several times before, moving into my fancy new apartment was the best thing that’s happened to me in recent memory, which is why Sunday’s mouse spotting was so devastating. However, knowing that my roommate was going to be out of town this week, I tackled the issue head on. I woke up Monday morning and ordered 6 Electromagentic/Ultrasonic Pest Roden Repellers from Amazon Prime, which apparently emit some sort of high frequency sound that drives mice crazy and keeps them from settling anywhere nearby. The package said that a single unit should suffice for an apartment, but I’m not taking any chances.
I haven’t seen any sign of invaders since plugging in my army of electronic rodent repellers, but I’ve still been feeling sort of on edge. And what do I do when I’m anxious? I make comfort food. In mass quantities. While I have been doing a lot of culinary self-soothing over the past few days, my favorite creation thus far is Potato Rosti with Pancetta and Mozzarella.
There are few things in the world more soothing than potatoes, and this dish is comfort food at its best. I don’t even know where to start when it comes to describing the awesomeness of a good potato rosti. Also known as “Swiss hash browns,” potato rosti is simply coarsely grated potatoes that are pressed and then pan-fried. What this yields is a large potato pancake (sans eggs and flour) with an unbelievably crispy, golden brown exterior and a tender, almost fluffy, interior.
While a straight up potato rosti is pretty magical, I like to experiment with different add-ins to spice things up a bit. In this case, I threw some diced pancetta and mozzarella into the potatoes and topped the rosti with fresh arugula and juicy baby heirloom tomatoes. I also cooked the whole shebang in pancetta grease, which may as well be liquid gold.
When you cut into this bad boy, it’s studded with salty pancetta and starts oozing warm, melted mozzarella cheese. (I really wish my roommate had been home for this part because I imagine the terrifyingly enthusiastic reaction would have been viral video material.) Fresh tomatoes add sweetness and acidity to the savory potato pancake, and the arugula provides a peppery kick. Game changer. Soothed by the warmth of this rosti and the flashing red light of my rodent repellers, I felt pretty safe and happy in my apartment yesterday. Things are looking up.
For the record, Potato Rosti with Pancetta and Mozzarella makes a great rustic meal on its own, but it also doubles as a killer side dish. It’s the perfect accompaniment to chicken, fish, or meat of almost any kind, and I love topping it with an egg for a fancy breakfast/brunch option. If you want to slim down your rosti, try halving the oil and baking it on a rimmed baking sheet or throw some vegetables into the mix and go for low-fat cheese. Feel free to play around with the rosti concept and adapt it to suit your tastes. I’m all about versatility.
Embrace the rosti, friends. Hash browns have never been hotter.
Potato Rosti with Pancetta and Mozzarella: (Serves 4)
4 ounces pancetta, diced
1 small yellow onion, minced
4 cups grated Yukon Gold potatoes (3-4 large potatoes, peeled)
4 ounces fresh mozzarella, diced
Fresh ground pepper
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
1 cup baby heirloom or grape tomatoes
1 cup arugula
Preparing your Potato Rosti with Pancetta and Mozzarella:
-Heat a medium-sized non-stick pan or cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the pancetta and sauté until lightly browned, about 7 minutes. Strain the pancetta from the pan, reserving the rendered fat, and set both aside until ready to use.
-Place your minced onions in a large bowl. Peel your potatoes and coarsely grate them using the large holes on a box grater. Mix the potatoes with the onions.
-Now for the most important step: Remove as much moisture from the potato and onion mixture as you can, which you can do in two ways. Option 1: Wrap the mixture in a clean dish towel and then twist the towel as tightly as you can to wring as much water out of the potatoes as humanly possible. (Obviously, you should do this over the sink. Duh.) Option 2: Take handfuls of the potato mixture and squeeze them to release as much water as you can, transferring the dry potatoes to a new bowl as you go. Either option will work well, but do not skip forget this step, people.
-Mix the cooked pancetta into the potatoes mixture and season with salt (about a teaspoon) and fresh ground pepper.
-Heat a tablespoon of the rendered fat from the pancetta and a tablespoon of olive oil until smoking slightly. (To check if the oil is hot enough, add a strand of potato to the pan. If it sizzles enthusiastically, the oil is ready.) Carefully add half of the potato mixture to the pan in an even layer and top with the diced mozzarella. Add the remaining potato mixture and pat it down with a spatula.
-Cook for 2-3 minutes and then lower the heat slightly. You still want to hear the potatoes lightly sizzling, but you don’t want them to be burning. Cook the rosti for 12-15 more minutes until the underside is nicely browned and the potatoes become tender.
-Flip your rosti. To do this, place a plate over the pan and carefully flip the rosti onto the plate.
-Heat another tablespoon of rendered fat from the pancetta and a tablespoon of olive oil. When hot, slide the rosti from the plate back into the pan. Cook for another 10-12 minutes until the underside is browned and the center is tender (which you can test with the tip of a sharp knife.)
-Remove the rosti from the pan and allow it to cool slightly.
-While the rosti is cooking. Slice your tomatoes in half with a serrated knife and place them in a small bowl. Toss with 1 teaspoon of olive oil and season with salt and fresh ground pepper.
-Slice your rosti, and top it with arugula and tomatoes. Serve immediately. Potatoes were a good choice.
I’m thrilled to be a part of Food Network’s Summer Fest this week. For more awesome recipes featuring potatoes, check out the amazing blogs below.
What’s Gaby Cooking: Parmesan Roasted Potatoes
Dishin & Dishes: Southern Green Beans and New Potatoes
Blue Apron Blog: Red, Orange, Purple and White: Your Guide to the Potato Rainbow
The Heritage Cook: Fully Loaded Green Chile Potato Skins
Devour: 5 Ways to Prepare Sweet Potatoes
Feed Me Phoebe: Basque Tuna Stew with Peppers and Potatoes
Weelicious: Broccoli Cheese Patties
The Sensitive Epicure: Salt Encrusted New Potatoes with Mustard-Mayo Dip
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Sweet Potato and Russet Pancakes with Chipotle Mayo
Red or Green: Roasted Sweet Potato Fries
And Love It Too: Sweet Potato Souffle
Taste With The Eyes: Ensalada de Papas a la Huancaina (Peruvian-Style Salad with Potato Cake, Egg and Yellow Chile)
FN Dish: Ease Out of Summer with Potatoes
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