Mar 14, 2013

Irish Colcannon

As we get closer to St. Patrick's Day, I love making Irish comfort foods, and colcannon is one of my favorites!

Irish Colcannon

Colcannon has been a staple in Ireland for hundreds of years. It incorporates Ireland’s basic crops- potatoes, onions, and cabbage or kale. Today, Colcannon is considered a comfort food in Ireland, appearing on both the most humble dining room tables to upscale restaurants across the country.

In Ireland, Colcannon is a traditional Halloween dish, marking the ancient Celtic holiday of Samhain (pronounced sow een). Samhain is traditionally a meatless day and colcannon is hearty and filling without containing beef or pork (although either can be added).

A time-honored tradition in Ireland is to include trinkets in the Colcannon: a sixpence, a gold ring, a thimble and a button. Finding one of the trinkets sealed the finder’s fortune for the upcoming year. The sixpence meant impending wealth, the gold ring meant marriage, the thimble meant spinsterhood for women and the button meant bachelorhood for the men.

The name colcannon comes from the Celtic cal caenn fhionn which means white-headed cabbage. Oddly, the traditional green in Colcannon is kale, a member of the cabbage family, but it is now often made with heading cabbage. 

While colcannon is most often eaten in Ireland in the fall when kale and cabbage are in season, it has become a favorite Irish dish for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations around the world.

Traditional Irish Colcannon

8 large thin-skinned potatoes
4 cups finely-chopped cabbage or kale
3 scallions (green onions), chopped finely
½ cup milk
1 stick (1/4 pound) butter
Salt and pepper to taste
Parsley (optional)

Scrub and steam the potatoes in their jackets for 30 minutes or until tender throughout.

While steaming the potatoes, add cabbage or kale to a medium sized saucepot with an inch of hot water in the bottom. Heat cabbage or kale to boiling and simmer for 5 minutes.

Drain the cabbage or kale into a strainer then set back in saucepot. Add 2 tablespoons of butter to cabbage and stir until melted.

Peel the potatoes while still hot and cut into pieces into a large stock pot. Mash the potatoes with a potato masher until the consistency is even.

Mix cabbage or kale into the potatoes as well as the three chopped scallions and the rest of the butter. 

Add the milk a little at a time until the mixture is creamy and consistent. Add salt and pepper to taste. When serving on plates, make a small well in the center of the colcannon and deposit 1 tablespoon of butter. Allow to melt.