Colcannon is a dish that originated in Ireland, and it is classic comfort food that's cheap to make. Irish Chef Richard Corrigan maintains, "there's no such thing as a recipe for Colcannon, really. It's something that is put together with love, not measurements."
Generally speaking, that's the way I cook, which is why the hardest part of writing about food is to provide specific measurements.
I've been eager to learn about Colcannon for a long time because it is a potato-based dish. I made my first batch Friday, and we devoured it. But then, my full-blooded German husband never met a potato he didn't like. I thought it would be good to try something new, but it wasn't a tough audience. We devoured it!
I joke about my husband's German ancestry (he can't help it) and his affinity for spuds, but there was a time in Ireland when potatoes weren't just a thing; they were everything to a certain population sector.
Potatoes were the staple of their very existence. They were the difference between sickness and health, almost to the point of life or death, among the poor in early Ireland. Here is a fascinating article about the importance of the potato in nineteenth-century Ireland.
Remember the words of Irish chef Richard Corrigan, "there's no such thing as a recipe for Colcannon, really. It's something that is put together with love, not measurements." Colcannon does not require precision.😉
Begin by boiling some "floury" potatoes like Russets. After 50 years of marriage to Papa, I thought I knew everything there is to know about potatoes, but the term "floury" is a relatively new bit of potato terminology for me. Floury potatoes are low in water content, and most of their sugar has converted to starch by harvest time. This quality leads to a dry, fluffy, cooked texture accentuated by baking and mashing.
The dry, starchy consistency of Russet potatoes enhances their ability to absorb all the wonderful butter, cream, or bacon drippings that give Colcannon such massive flavor.
Some suggest cooking the potatoes in the skin, peeling them, then mashing them for more flavor. I peeled mine first because I hate burning my fingers.
While the potatoes are boiling, cut the bacon into small pieces, fry them until they are crisp, and set the bacon aside. Saute shredded cabbage and chopped onion in the bacon drippings until they are soft and start to get transparent.
Mash the potatoes but leave them a little chunky and rustic. Colcannon isn't the place for whipped potatoes. Now, fold the green onions, cabbage-onion-bacon mixture, and every bit of the drippings into the mashed potatoes. Sprinkle the bacon bits over the top, dot with more butter, sprinkle with parsley for pretty, and serve it piping hot!
You can use leeks, green onions, Savoy cabbage, or kale in place of all or part of the onions or cabbage.
You can use ham in place of part or all of the bacon if you prefer.
We had some wonderful beef Polska kielbasa with our Colcannon. I had charred it a bit, so it looked really tasty. It was a good-looking plate, but imagine what you could do with a wee bit more effort! The humble food of potatoes, cabbage, onion, carrot, and sausage in the photo below makes a feast for a king!
Have you ever had Colcannon? It would be a perfect dish to serve for St. Patrick's Day, but any cold night when you need something cozy to eat is the night for Colcannon! I hope you try it and if you do, send me a picture!! I would be thrilled!
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