Austrians have their Tafelspitz and some fancy dishes but let’s be honest, they mostly love simple cooking. Just look at the abundance of Knoedel, Nockerl, Kaiserschmarrn (it has a complicated name but is, in fact, an omelette gone wrong), all the Groestl etc.
It is no different with this recipe. This simple dish is an impersonation of the Austrian cooking. It is an Austrian dinner made in a record time, with a minimal amount of fuss. Whether you have leftover potatoes or you cook them on the same day does not really matter. The dish is simple, yet excellent. If you like potatoes, and especially if you like fried potatoes, this Austrian dish will make your heart swoon.
However simple, it does require your attention and you need to be gentle around it. Treat it as an exercise in mindfulness. The success lies in the right coordination of browning and keeping the moisture in. You want the potatoes to be crispy in some places and you want to give the onion and leek an opportunity to really melt into potatoes and give their aromas. However, you don’t need coal and bitterness on your plate. If you overdo it, you will lose the juiciness and that would be a completely different category of a mess. In other words: not too little, but not too much! Cooking is a balancing act.
What is it even, this whole Erdäpfel?
The name Erdäpfel might be confusing, but it is one of the little details that can sometimes make your life in Austria a bit complicated. Erdäpfel is the same thing as Kartoffel, ergo a potato. But because Austrians are such individualists, a lot of food related words are completely different than in “standard” German.
This reminds me of a story when I was a fresh arrival in Vienna. I have been learning German for a few months already and in the spirit of “going for it” I decided to make my shopping list in German. So I wrote everything down, with a little help of my dictionary, and headed to our nearby Spar.
I have spent solid five minutes around vegetable alley. I really tried to find beetroots on my own. After spotting a lady working in this department I pep talked myself into a “fake it till you make it” attitude. I put on my best smile, practiced the possible scenarios in my head while casually driving around vegetables with my cart and finally went for it:
– Entschuldigung, haben Sie vielleicht Rote Bete?
She gave me a look and answered without skipping a beat:
– Es gibt keine Rote Bete in Österreich, wir haben Rote Rüben!
This was not an answer I was expecting in any of my possible scenarios! But I continued, sweating profusely, but covering it with a smile (and a winter jacket)
– … uhm… aaahh hmmm… ok, haben Sie dann Rote Rüben?
– Das weiss ich nicht, sie müssen meinen Kollegen fragen
Loose translation: I asked if they maybe have Rote Bete (beetroots), lady said, it is called Rote Rüben in Austria. I asked if they have Rote Rüben then (since the name is so important), she answered she does not know, I have to ask her colleague.
I accepted this out of the blue class of Austrian language.
One day I might create a separate post about all these little things, but for now, let’s have some potatoes.