The Land of Potatoes and the Best Rösti Around

Whatever you heard about the Irish and potatoes, it's true. Really.

This is not a necessarily relevant point, but it's something that I can't quite get off my mind. You see, I wouldn't have fully believed that the love of the Irish bestowed upon their potatoes extends as far as it does until seeing it with my own eyes, and now that I've seen it, I'm just left wondering...why?
Ok, so maybe I was the one who made this potato salad as we celebrated 4th of July here, but it's a time when potatoes simply must be included. This dish has homemade mayonnaise, malt & red wine vinegar, mint, capers, peas, lemon juice, & EVOO.
I have lived with two chefs now in Ireland, cultured and creative women both (remember the first?). And despite all of their combined kitchen prowess, you can bet that as sure as the sun will rise in the morning, there will almost surely be the bumpy face of a potato at dinner.
The Gallic Kitchen's rosti display flanked by veggie quiche &  feta and sun dried tomato pies (the vegetarian aisle).  
Don't want so much potato? Opt for less with a duck confit pie topped with grated potato and cheddar...
I'm not going to deny that I have a thing against potatoes. I love french fries, hash browns, potato salad, roasted potatoes...really, I enjoy a lot of dishes involving potatoes. But it's not the potato itself that does it for me. It's the crisp of the fry, the tangy herbs in a potato salad; it's never really the potato.  You can argue that the potato is worthy of praise because it is the vessel of so many pleasures...but there are substitutes, you see. There are substitutes that are not only sometimes more pleasurable, but also more nutritious and financially comparable (sweet potato comes to mind. Or turnips, why must the turnip be so ignored?).

Sometimes I'm prone to aligning myself with that camp of people who only likes a transformed potato; as in, mix some potatoes into a pig's food, and savor the transformed results with your plate of breakfast bacon.
I definitely confused the girl at The Blackberry Cafe  in Thomasville when I asked for the gluten-free version of an Irish breakfast sandwich, but she ended up performing marvelously—look at all that local cheese! (note to self: cheese is a perfectly suitable substitute for bread. Even for a cheese sandwich). Add local bacon and eggs with homemade relish, and you get Heaven.
What I'm trying to say here is that potatoes are overrated. Namely, potatoes are overrated in Ireland. Even amazing cooks have an inexplicably unbreakable dependence on them, bred into them, I suppose, by the potato trials of the past.
John gettin' down on some Irish tradition as we tend the stall at Dublin's Saturday Temple Bar market
What I'm also trying to say here is that at the end of the day, sometimes an invisible evil potato witch just makes you crave french fries or baked potatoes or whatever other dish you crave that involves starchy bland masses, and sometimes you just gotta give in, no matter how much logic tells you that it's wrong.

So this is where I give in. Every time. It's the crunch, it's the oil. It's the golden exterior preceding the soft, yielding interior.

This is it: I love a good potato pancake.
I am a sucker for crisp—give me a potato cooked as long as possible before burning it (a request that only Waffle House employees truly understand).
And the Gallic Kitchen knows good potato pancakes, but over here, we call them rostis (a name which actually hearkens to its Swiss origins).

Perfectly crunchy, deceptively decadent (spoiler alert: it's the duck fat. But that's optional.), and wearing a royal crown of sweet pepper, arugula, and goat cheese, this rosti is hard to beat and easy to make. Perfect for a potato hater that secretly loves potatoes (sometimes), and even more perfect for a potato lover that always loves potatoes, throw this together whenever you want to make something that literally calls for five ingredients.
Tomato chutney should probably cover the world.
Barely hiding its little arugula suprise
Potato Rostis with Sweet Red Pepper, Arugula, and Fresh Chevre
Ingredients (for one serving, multiply as-needed)
One generous cup of shredded Russet potatoes (use a food processor and apply plenty of pressure on the potato to get a long, thin grate)
One large red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-3/4 inch rings
One 1/2-inch slice from huge roll of fresh Chevre/goat cheese, or several smaller pieces of equivalent measure
One generous handful of coarsely chopped arugula
Cooking oil or duck fat
Salt and pepper to taste
Working in a commercial kitchen, it's easy to get your hand on a chevre log this large, so if you don't want to substitute with pieces of a smaller log, ask your local cheese shop to order a big guy for you, which is enough for 10-12 rostis.
Preheat oven to 375/200 Fahrenheit/Celsius

Peel and shred potatoes using the grater setting that's a bit larger than the size of the tine of a fork. Place any shredded potato that you're not cooking immediately into water.

Cover a pan liberally with cooking oil (I suggest peanut or some other high-heat-tolerant oil) and throw on a couple globs of duck fat if you just so happen to have it lying around. Form a large handful of grated potatoes into a pile/patty about one inch thick and five inches wide. Flatten the pile across the top and  round it down to the base of the pan on the edges. Salt and pepper to taste.

Bake this for about 20-30 minutes, check with a spatula and if the bottom is firm and golden but not quite brown, it is ready to be flipped. Remove from oven and flip, using a sharp-edged spatula in case any of the potato tries to stick to the pan. Add oil to the pan if necessary.
The unflipped on is in the middle, and the other two have the brown level you're looking for post-flip
Pack in as much arugula/rocket as possible as it will shrink loads once it starts cooking
Once the rosti is flipped, place the pepper in the center, pushing it down with a bit of force to stabilize it on it's potato pillow. Stuff as much arugula as you can into the center of the pepper, then top with the goat cheese.

Add more oil if the pan looks dry and bake 7-15 minutes until golden and browning on the edges.
Simple and grand.
So there's my rosti weakness. Serve it with a little tomato chutney (recipe to come) and I'll tell you potatoes are my favorite vegetable (lies!) any time you want.


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