“Did you ever eat Colcannon, made from lovely pickled cream?
With the greens and scallions mingled like a picture in a dream.
Did you ever make a hole on top to hold the melting flake
Of the creamy, flavored butter that your mother used to make?
Yes you did, so you did, so did he and so did I.
And the more I think about it sure the nearer I’m to cry.
Oh, wasn’t it the happy days when troubles we had not,
And our mothers made Colcannon in the little skillet pot.”
(Irish folk song)
Colcannon is a testament to the positive fortitude and creative genius of the Irish! Using only their infamously bland, but hearty crops- potatoes, onions, cabbage, and butter/cream from their cows- this luscious dish was invented when times were tough. There are lots of versions, but I like a farm-rustic take on it; seems more authentic, how my great-great grandmother might have made it. …Ok… the real truth is, it’s easier; no worries about perfectly smooth mashed potatoes, and it’s still absolutely delicious. Great with a slice of ham, or a lamb chop.
1 lb. potatoes
½ stick butter, divided
½ c. chopped leeks or ¼ c. chopped green onion
1 small clove garlic, minced (optional)
1 c. tightly packed, fine-shredded savoy, Napa, or green cabbage*
⅓ c. cream, room temp
¼ c. + milk, room temp
Salt and pepper
Boil or steam the potatoes until soft. Drain; peel while still warm. Or you can leave unpeeled if you want a more rustic style dish -though I wouldn't suggest this method with russets, because of their thick skins.
While potatoes are cooking, gently sauté the leeks or onion and garlic (if using) until tender and fragrant in 2 Tbsp. butter (use a large sauté/frying pan). Add the other 2 Tbsp. butter, melt, then stir in the cabbage, and cook just until wilted. Add cream, blending over low heat until warm.
Quarter, then coarsely mash the potatoes with a fork. Stir them into the creamy onion/cabbage mixture, and mash some more, until well blended.
Add milk, if/as needed, just a little at a time, to bring to your desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper, transfer to serving bowl and garnish with some chopped green onion if you wish. Serve warm.
*Note: I use Savoy cabbage if I can find it because of its sweetness, but Napa or green cabbage are both perfectly fine too. Adding a couple of handfuls of baby spinach, or rough-chopped kale in addition to, or instead of, cabbage is also delicious- and still traditional.
If you prefer creamy-mashed potatoes, simply mash peeled potatoes along with a little cream/milk and butter until smooth, using an electric mixer, then stir in the onions and cabbage. Or, easier yet, buy mashed potatoes in the grocery frozen or dairy section. Prepare according to pkg. instructions and stir in warm sautéed leeks, cabbage, and/or other greens.
If you want to take it up a notch: About 10 years ago, I saw a Colcannon recipe from Kevin Dundon, the sweet and awesomely talented Irish chef.
He’d added a couple of slices of bacon to the butter right before sautéeing the cabbage, (pulled out the crisp bacon, crumbled it and threw it back in the pan). Of course this brings the already rich recipe to over-the-top levels. I’ve never tried it, but each year since I have been tempted…
Irish Champ- an easy variation that is streamlined, simplified Colcannon: mashed potatoes mixed with cream/milk and chopped green onions (no cabbage or greens). Irish Champ Recipe
Recipe created or adapted by Liz Talley, Urban Graze
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