When I ask Swiss people what their favorite dish is from their home country, they often mention raclette or fondue. Although recently, when I asked a lifelong resident of Switzerland this question, she responded with, “Gschwellti” (pronounced something like, “shvell-ti”). I asked her to write it down because I had never heard of this dish!
Of course, there’s still lots of traditional foods in Switzerland that I have yet to discover, but in fact, I had eaten the primary component of this Swiss dish many times before. Gschwellti means potatoes cooked in their skins. They are commonly served with raclette—the Swiss cheese that’s melted, scraped and eaten with boiled or steamed potatoes. However, when you say you’re having Gschwellti for a meal, it may mean that you’re serving these boiled potatoes with a selection of different types of cheese. Unlike raclette, the cheeses served with Gschwellti are not heated.
If you’re making this at home, what kind of potatoes should you use? Betty Bossi recommends the following varieties of potatoes, which would also be good for raclette: Nicola, Stella, Charlotte, Granola and Ostara. Traditionally, you leave the skin on the potatoes, which I prefer, but you certainly don’t have to. You steam or boil them until tender.
Here are some examples of the words used to describe unpeeled boiled or steamed potatoes in Switzerland:
- Gschwellti (Swiss German)
- Pellkartoffeln (German)
- Les rondes (Swiss-French, literally means “the rounds”)
- Les pommes de terre en robe des champs (French, potatoes in their skins or literally, “potatoes in field dresses”)
What are some accompaniments for potatoes and cheese? A Swiss-German friend recommends a fresh, crisp and seasonal salad as a side dish for Gschwellti. Cornichons also seem to be a popular accompaniment for this dish. Another typical condiment is quark (German) or seré (French)—a soft, smooth cheese with a light acidity, which can be mixed with fresh herbs, like chives, or with garlic, for example.
How do you eat Gschwellti? It seems rather simple, but you just put some cheese and cooked potatoes on your plate and eat it. Maybe you eat them together. Maybe you eat them separately. Maybe you top your potatoes with seasoned quark. There are no hard, fast rules here, but the key components are always boiled or steamed potatoes and cheese.
What kind of cheese do you serve with Gschwellti? Some common cheese recommendations include a mixture of both hard and soft cheeses, fresh cheese and blue cheese, etc. When I reached out via Instagram to ask about specific cheeses to pair with boiled potatoes, here are some of the Swiss cheese suggestions I received:
What are the origins of this dish? Anecdotally, I’ve heard that this dish in Switzerland dates back generations, much like raclette. Potatoes and cheese have been accessible ingredients for centuries now in this country, and a platter of cheese with cooked potatoes is a quick meal to throw on the table. It has certainly continued over time because of its simplicity. And, because adding cheese to most things makes them better, right? Made of whole foods, with few ingredients and easy preparation, Gschwellti is my kind of meal.
Do you make Gschwellti at home? What kind of cheese do you use? Please share your experiences with and knowledge of this dish by sharing a comment below. Thanks in advance for your help!