Whenever I visited Oma Erika, my adopted German grandma who lives in the picturesque mountain town Annaberg-Buchholz, we cooked potatoes. Fried, pureed, shaped into dumplings, mixed into salads—Oma Erika, like many German cooks, knew countless ways to celebrate the spud, and over the years, she passed them down to me. My favorite was transforming leftover boiled potatoes into bratkartoffeln (BRAHT-kar-toff-uh-len).
The idea is simply to slice or dice the cooked potatoes and sizzle them in a skillet until they’re spottily golden brown on the outside yet creamy and lush on the inside. They’re embellished simply, with onions; fresh parsley; and bauchspeck, beechwood-smoked German bacon. It’s a versatile side that pairs beautifully with bratwurst, schnitzel, eggs, or any meal that could use a smoky, crispy starch.
Because bowls of leftover boiled potatoes are less common stateside than in Germany, I wanted to develop a bratkartoffeln recipe that achieved the same results with raw. I immediately gravitated toward Yukon Gold potatoes: They boast a moderate amount of starch, which means they are more yielding and creamy yet hold their shape better than a starchier russet.
I began to build the dish by frying a few slices of chopped hickory-smoked bacon, my stand-in for German bauchspeck. I added a chopped onion, sautéing it in the smoky, savory bacon fat, and then transferred the mixture to a bowl (I needed all the room in the skillet I could get to fry the potatoes).
With only a teaspoon of bacon fat left behind, I added a knob of butter for slickness (Germans typically fry their potatoes in butterschmalz, or clarified butter) and then in went the spuds, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds. Here’s where I needed to make a slight tweak to tradition to account for my raw potatoes: Rather than simply frying the potatoes in the fat, I covered the pan and then allowed them to simultaneously steam and fry, flipping the slices halfway through. Cooking the potatoes undisturbed in a moist environment ensured that they would cook through evenly, their rigid interiors collapsing into velvety softness.
After the potatoes were tender, I removed the lid and tossed the slices to allow more of them to make contact with the pan and crisp (this is a rustic dish, so it’s okay if the potatoes aren’t evenly golden brown). I returned the bacon and onions to the skillet and then finished the bratkartoffeln with a flourish of salt, pepper, and parsley. Plush, yet crispy, smoky, and savory—these were potatoes that Oma Erika would approve of.