Crispy Potato Rösti with Salami, Cheese + Fried Eggs

rosti 2 585x878 Crispy Potato Rösti with Salami, Cheese + Fried Eggs

This. Life is all about the crispy bits.

I love going out for breakfast, but we rarely do; Calgary is a city of weekend morning lineups, which when you’re twentysomething are social events in and of themselves, but after 40, standing in line for anything begins to lose its cool. Also: rarely nursing a hangover or having stayed out until 4 am, I’m never hungry enough to warrant an enormous meal of eggs and potatoes and meat – or a short stack of anything – until it’s late enough in the day that everyone has moved on to lunch. As a bonafide grown up (apparently it’s so), I instead like to take it upon myself to pack up the car and drive somewhere with clean sheets, deep tubs, good coffee, no breakfast lineups and the option to go back upstairs and crawl back into bed afterwards.

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Having lived in Calgary since the ripe young age of grade two, I spent much of my childhood in the mountains; driving there and back in our orange VW van to camp, or in our navy blue station wagon with faux wood paneling to ski. Jockeying for position in the back seat with my sisters so that I wasn’t stuck on the hump in the middle without a window to gaze out of. Sometimes we’d stay overnight – often at the Banff Springs or Chateau Lake Louise, and occasionally at the Post, which underwent a major makeover when I was a teenager – right around the time Mike and I started dating and I began eschewing family trips to the mountains in favour of hanging out listening to U2 with my drummer boyfriend, who didn’t know how to ski. (Or drive, for that matter.)

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After a brief hiatus, I’m back to appreciating the beauty of the mountains – and it’s been on my to-do list to revisit the Post, which has always been my Mom’s favourite place, and she has great taste in everything. It seems to be everyone’s favourite, in fact. Everyone who knows about it.

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Some call the Post Hotel Alberta’s best-kept secret. They’re known for their fantastic chef and spectacular dining – the Condé Nast Traveler’s Gold List awarded them “Best Food in the Americas”, and the Post is one of only four restaurants in Canada to be recognized by Wine Spectator with the Grand Award – its highest honour – both of which sound like a pretty big deal. Beside the dining room, the wine cellar has an inventory of over 25,500 bottles (and over 2300 selections) – one of the most comprehensive and well known in the country. (Co-owner George Schwarz traveled with his dad on wine buying trips to Châteauneuf-du-Pape as a kid – a love of wine runs in the family.)

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Chef Sauter has cooked in kitchens all over the world before landing here – the menu reflects his Swiss heritage, but also incorporates ingredients from every province and territory in Canada. Dinner was roasted caribou striploin from the Northwest Territories, with maple whisky sauce (to be as Canadian as possible), with tiny fingers of schupfnudeln, which were like long, golden gnocchi.

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There’s an adorable little side-room called the Stübli – which, not surprisingly, translates to small, cozy room – where they serve traditional Swiss fondues: cheese, bourguignonne, chinoise and chocolate. Post hosts spectacular winemakers’ dinners between February and April, if you can manage to snag a seat. (That’s next on my list, once W is old enough to hang out in the room with his iPad.)

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Did I mention the rooms have wood burning stone fireplaces? They do.

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There are fireplaces everywhere, in fact – including the library, a cozy spot with board games and sliding ladders to get to the books on the upper shelves. And the latest issue of Saveur! All to myself.

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There’s a salt water pool, a gorgeous spa I also aspire to visit one day, and skating in and around the trees ouside the dining room and cozy lobby, where they pour tea in the afternoon, and wheel in a diplay case full of cakes and pies. Pie in the afternoon in the mountains. It’s a thing.

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IMG 7846 585x439 Crispy Potato Rösti with Salami, Cheese + Fried Eggs

My mom always has a jar or two of Chef Hans’ preserves in her fridge – the plum is my favourite – and it acts as a gauge to show when it’s time to go back. I picked up a few jars from the front desk to bring home, but really craved the rösti I had for breakfast. The potato pancake was crisp on the bottom and soft within, studded with bits of salty ham, topped with melted cheese (raclette?) and a couple fried eggs. And it stayed hot in the skillet until I finished it all. It’s the small things.

Because I don’t like to ask chefs for their recipes – not only because it puts them on the spot, but because food tends to be executed differently in a restaurant kitchen compared to a home one, and so often recipes need to be tweaked accordingly – I didn’t ask for Chef Sauter’s rösti secrets. Instead I went home and played, using his brunch dish as inspiration. (Although admittedly part of the appeal was the skating rink and mountains out the window.)

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Potato rösti isn’t difficult to make, but can be easier to pull off with cold boiled potatoes. In Switzerland, you might find rösti made with caraway seed, rosemary, cheese, bacon or other cured meats; I had no ham in the fridge but a few slices of Genoa salami, which I sliced and crisped up a bit in the pan before adding the potatoes to the now salami-infused oil.

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You could add bits of chopped green onion to your rösti, or crumbled bacon, or finely chopped rosemary, or whatever you normally like to eat with your potatoes. It could be perfectly plain – just potatoes, oil and salt – and still be delicious, but I can’t imagine ever not covering mine with cheese and a fried egg.

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Make sure your pan is smoking hot, and use this as an excuse to buy a cast iron skillet if you don’t already have one. A small one you can take to the table is the most fun. Or pack up your car and let someone else make it for you while you sleep or swim or ski or skate in the Rockies.

Post-inspired Crispy Potato Rösti with Salami, Cheese + Fried Eggs

I kept the measurements loose here, because it’s breakfast, and because each will be dictated based on appetites, pan size, and what you happen to have in your fridge. Hollandaise would be divine drizzled overtop.

2 russet potatoes
canola oil, for cooking
butter, for cooking
1/4-1/2 cup chopped or thinly sliced salami or ham
salt and pepper, to taste
grated aged Gouda, raclette, or other meltable cheese
eggs, for poaching or frying

In a medium saucepan, cover the potatoes with water and bring to a boil. (Yes, leave them whole.) Cook for 20 minutes, or until just fork-tender; drain and cool under cold running water. Set aside to cool, or refrigerate for up to a couple days.

Set a small, heavy (cast iron is ideal) skillet over medium-high heat, add a drizzle of oil and if you like, cook the salami or ham for a few minutes, until slightly crisp. Meanwhile, coarsely grate a potato or two using the coarse side of a box grater. Season with salt and pepper right on the cutting board or countertop.

Add the salami and toss to combine them, then put about half the mixture into the hot pan, pressing down to make a cake. Cook for a few minutes, until the bottom is deeply golden. Invert onto a plate, then slide it back into the pan and cook until golden on the other side. (Add extra oil and butter to the pan if you need it.)

Top with cheese and either cover with a lid to help it melt, or run it under the broiler for a minute or two to melt it. Meanwhile, fry or poach a couple of eggs in another skillet – or slide the rösti out onto a plate and cook the eggs in the same pan. Repeat with the remaining potatoes.

Serve the eggs on top of the rösti. Serves 2.

* Travel Alberta is supporting me in sharing stories from around my home province. Thank you.

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February 24 2015 | breakfast | 10 Comments »

Xiao Long Bao – Shanghai Soup Dumplings

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If you’ve ever been out for dim sum, you’ve likely bitten into some xiao long bao – soup dumplings filled with a nugget of seasoned pork and a burst of warm soup. It’s a staple of Shanghai cuisine and something most people don’t make at home, likely because it’s no easy feat to get soup inside a dumpling. Except that it is – when the stock is chilled and gelled. You add a cube or two of flavourful chicken gel along with your filling, and it reliquefies as the dumplings steam. It’s like molecular gastronomy before that was even a thing.

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I was lucky enough to visit Richmond, BC last weekend – it’s part of the Metro Vancouver area, up around the airport – for a couple days of eating with some people in the know. I need a little hand-holding when eating my way around a city with over 400 Asian restaurants, with 200 of them contained within a 3 block strip. With the Asian population and availability of ingredients, there are many who say Richmond has the best Asian food in North America. I’m not going to argue this.

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Fascinated with the idea of homemade xiao long bao, I came home and made some rich soup stock, then firmed it up a little with plain gelatin. Most recipes I found online call for this – likely because while a good gelled stock isn’t difficult, it’s also not guaranteed. A little bit of plain gelatin doesn’t change the flavour at all. If you chill a cup or two of stock in a loaf pan, then cut it into strips, you wind up with these snakes of chicken stock I can’t help but play with. They must have potential in other kitchen applications. I wonder what W would say if I sent one to school in his lunch.

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I used my usual potsticker filling formula – ground pork with chopped cilantro and green onions, ginger and garlic, soy sauce and a bit of sugar, and a squirt of Sriracha.

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Some people make their own hot water dough, but if this seems a little too ambitious, fresh dumpling wrappers are easy to find. They’re dusted with a fine layer of cornstarch to keep them from sticking, which can also keep them from pleating – a quick brush with water prevents this. If you have trouble twisting the little topknot, stick your finger in the water and tap it, then twist and it should stick.

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Xiao long bao are most often served right in their bamboo steamers, to keep them hot – there is a technique to eating them without popping one whole in your mouth to have hot soup squirt down your throat. Pick it up with chopsticks by its topknot and set it on (or over) a Chinese soup spoon. Some people poke it in the side, letting the broth leak out into the spoon to cool off a bit before downing all in one bite; others nibble off a bit of the wrapper from one side, then sip the broth out before eating the dumpling. Whatever works. First, dip it in a mixture of soy sauce and rice vinegar, with some finely sliced or grated fresh ginger.

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Gung hay fat choy! Happy year of the ram!

Xiao Long Bao

bones of 1 roasted chicken
1 small carrot, cut into chunks
a few slices of ham or Asian-style cured sausage
a few sprigs of cilantro or parsley
1 green onion
big pinch salt
1 Tbsp. plain gelatin

1 lb. ground pork
1/4 cup chopped cilantro (stems too)
2 green onions, finely chopped
2-3 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1-2 garlic cloves, finely crushed
2 tsp. brown sugar
a squirt of Sriracha (to taste)

1 pkg. dumpling wrappers

Dipping Sauce:
thinly sliced fresh ginger
dark soy sauce
rice vinegar
pinch dried red chili flakes (optional)

To make the stock, combine everything but the gelatin in a medium pot, cover with water and bring to a simmer. Cook over low heat, without bringing it to a rolling boil, for 30-45 minutes, or until you have a rich-tasting stock. Strain and pour back into the pot. Sprinkle the gelatin overtop (you should have about 2 cups of stock – reduce the gelatin if you have less) and let sit a few minutes to soften. Bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the gelatin completely. Pour into a loaf pan or other dish and refrigerate until firm.

To make the dumpling filling, combine the ground pork, cilantro, green onions, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, brown sugar and Sriracha, mixing gently with your hands to combine.

When you’re ready to assemble the dumplings, put some water in a small dish and find a clean work surface, like a chopping board. Cut the gelled stock into strips, then into pieces about 1/3-inch square. (If you like, stir the pieces of gelled stock gently into the pork mixture.)

Place a few dumpling wrappers at a time on the board, and brush around the edge with water using a pastry brush or your finger. Place a small spoonful of the pork mixture in the middle of each wrapper, along with a square or two of gelled stock. Gather the dumpling up into the palm of your hand and pleat it all around the edges using your thumb, twisting it in a small topknot at the top to close. If it doesn’t stick (most dumpling wrappers are coated with a layer of cornstarch), add another drop of water.

As you fill them, put them on a parchment-lined sheet and cover with a light towel. Steam over simmering water in a bamboo steamer basket (or in a rice cooker or other steamer), on a layer of parchment, cheesecloth or cabbage leaves, for 12-15 minutes, or until cooked through. For the dipping sauce, mix the ginger with about 2 parts soy sauce to 1 part vinegar, or to taste.

To eat, pick up the soup dumpling by its topknot using chopsticks, and transfer to a Chinese soup spoon. Either poke a hole in the side with your chopstick and let the soup run out into the spoon, or lift it up, bite off one side and sip out the soup, then eat the dumpling.

Makes 2-3 dozen soup dumplings.

pixel Xiao Long Bao   Shanghai Soup Dumplings
button print gry20 Xiao Long Bao   Shanghai Soup Dumplings

February 19 2015 | appetizers and pork | 6 Comments »

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