“Keep it simple” was never my motto when I started out in the kitchen. If there was a way to complicate a dish, I found it. If there was a longer way around, I took it. And if that longer way involved my constant attention, so much the better. I was teaching myself to cook, and in the process of trying to learn techniques, I’d overlooked the solid fact that sometimes less is more — a lot more.
This is a less-is-more recipe. Although there’s a lot more you can do with it, go minimalist and you’ll go happy.
The dish is four ingredients: potatoes, sliced thinly, overlapped and arranged in a circle (the rosette of the title); onion, sliced just as thinly and tucked between the potatoes; olive oil, just a smidge, brushed on for flavor and the color it will coax from the spuds; and salt and pepper, because no potato should go out into the world without that pair. Because herbs are a tater’s best friend (and because I’m so happy to have them growing in my garden), I scatter them here and there, but they’re a fillip, not a fundamental.
Baked — oh, let’s call it roasted — in a hot oven, the potatoes turn crisp and brown at the edges, and the centers go soft and stay a bit pale. And all over the rosettes there are those alluring little bubbles that high heat and oil will give you.
To get the crispness and the play of textures, you have to slice the potatoes very thin: about 1/8-inch, to be precise (more precise than you really need to be). This is a job for a mandoline, a Benriner or any other kind of slicer you’ve got. Or do this with the slicing blade of a food processor. The ideal is to get all the slices to be the same thinness so that they’ll bake in the same time; the reality is that slices a bit thinner or thicker, or a slightly uneven mix, will still give you a good-tasting dish.
I cut the onions and potatoes on a slicer; it’s quick, the slices are even and the onions don’t seem to make me cry as much when they’re mandolined. And, because I work with one potato at a time, I can slick them with oil as soon as they’re sliced, sealing them, so they don’t need to be kept in water to prevent the dread blackening, a result of the spuds being exposed to air. That makes the work go faster, and you get crisper potatoes.
Because I’m a sucker for pretty, I like to make individual rosettes, but the technique (really more an arts-and-crafts project) of layering, oiling and seasoning thinly sliced potatoes also lends itself to a more family-style presentation. You can make a kind of communal “slab” pie by arranging the potatoes in rows on a baking sheet. Same treatment, different look.
I like both the rosettes and the slab with a touch of something creamy — crème fraîche, sour cream or thick, plain yogurt — and a shower of snipped herbs (I usually go for chives). But if the more-is-more spirit overtakes you, here are a few ideas for more-ing up the dish: Top each rosette with a curl of smoked salmon or pieces of smoked trout and cream; sprinkle over bits of bacon; use the rosette as the base for a small green salad; or put an egg on it. A poached egg would be great — the yolk would be a wonderful sauce — but soft-scrambled eggs are pretty swell, too. Have fun with this one.
Photograph by Deb Lindsey. This story appeared originally in my Everyday Dorie column for the Washington Post.
Makes 8 servings
Roasted in a hot oven, potato slices turn crisp and brown at the edges, and thinly sliced onions become aromatic and a little crunchy. With just those two main ingredients, this is a less-is-more recipe. You can add extra toppings (see VARIATIONS), but if you go minimalist, you’ll be happy.
If you don’t want to make individual rosettes, the technique of layering, oiling and seasoning thinly sliced potatoes also lends itself to a more family-style presentation. You can make a kind of communal “slab” pie by arranging the potatoes in rows on a baking sheet. Same treatment, different look.
It’s best to use a mandoline to help you slice the potatoes and onions uniformly thin.
- 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 small yellow onion
- 3 medium Yukon Gold or russet potatoes, peeled (about 1 pound total)
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme and/or rosemary
- Fleur de sel or Maldon flake sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- About 1/2 cup crème fraîche, low-fat sour cream or plain low-fat Greek yogurt, for serving (optional)
- Snipped chives, chopped parsley or chopped dill, for serving (optional)
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, then use a pastry brush to coat the paper lightly with a little of the oil.
Use a mandoline or a very sharp knife to cut the onion and potatoes into 1/8-inch slices; give each one a light brush with some of the oil as you build 4 individual rosettes. (You’ll need about 7 similar-size potato slices for each one.) Alternate/overlap the potato slices with a few rings of onion, to taste; then use your cupped hands to slightly compact the arrangement. Brush the rosettes lightly with oil. Top each with a sprig of thyme and/or rosemary, then season lightly with salt and pepper.
Bake on the middle rack for 30 to 35 minutes or until the potatoes are crispy and deeply golden brown around the edges and cooked through at their centers; poke them with the point of a knife to be sure. Carefully transfer the cakes to plates by using a broad spatula to lift each one off the baking sheet. If a petal or two of a rosette wiggles itself free, just tuck it in and reconstruct the rosettes on the plates.
If you’d like, top with a tablespoon or two of crème fraîche, sour cream or Greek yogurt, and sprinkle with fresh herbs. Serve hot or warm.
VARIATIONS: Top each rosette with a piece of smoked salmon or smoked trout, and some cream; sprinkle with bits of bacon; use the rosette as the base for a small green salad; or top with a poached or softly scrambled egg.