Colcannon is delicious mix up of potatoes, kale and cabbage, one of the most classic dishes of Ireland. It is served as a side dish, often on St. Patrick’s Day. but I think it’s delicious and hearty enough to be the main part of the meal, any time of the year!
Colcannon for St. Patrick’s Day
Over 31 million Americans claim some Irish ancestry, and while St. Patrick’s Day is a celebrated holiday in Ireland, it’s actually celebrated on a larger scale in the U.S. The day celebrates St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, who lives and died in the 5th century. The holiday has an inclusive feel about it, a sense that you don’t need to be Irish to celebrate. In fact, the holiday has been embraced as a moment to be heritage-proud, and there is a popular saying “everyone’s a little Irish on St. Patty’s Day.”
And of course, when there is a cultural/national holiday there are always the foods that go with. Some of the favorites are corned beef and cabbage, Irish soda bread, shepherd’s pie, and lamb stews. And there is colcannon.
This classic Irish medley of potatoes and greens is delicious but definitely harkens back to poor times in Ireland. The potato blight in the mid-nineteenth century devastated the country causing years of famine that resulted in Ireland’s population decreasing by half by the beginning of the 19th century.
Potatoes were and remain one of the central foods of Irish cooking. This dish celebrates the humble tuber with the addition of milk and cream, as well as whatever green vegetables and member of the onion family are available.
According to a 1952 Irish cookbook called Feasting Galore written by Maura Laverty: “A heaped portion is served on each plate. A well is made in the center of the heap to hold a generous lump of butter. The colcannon is eaten from around the outside of the heap, each person dipping his fork first into the colcannon and then into the melting butter. The perfect companion to a class of colcannon is a glass of fresh buttermilk.”
Colcannon: Fluffy, creamy potatoes mashed with sauteed cabbage and kale are a classic Irish dish – perfect for St. Patty’s Day!Tweet This
There are a whole lot of recipes for colcannon, and a whole lot of opinions of the right way to make it. The potatoes are non-negotiable, though what they are mashed with (milk, cream, butter, scallions, onions) is up for discussion.
But it‘s the greens that are the big cause for discussion. Many recipes call for cabbage, which makes sense. Other than potatoes, cabbage was one of the foods that sustained the Irish people for many years. Some recipes (even some very old ones) call for kale or other greens. I have made it with both cabbage and kale, and frankly I don’t know which I like better . So I made a version with a combination!
The point, of course, is that in Ireland they would have made this dish with whatever was available at the time, in the region. And so we can use whatever greens make sense for our colcannon on St. Patrick’s Day (or any other day some classic Irish comfort food is warranted.)
And according to this charming old cookbook, “in the Midlands colcannon is called “Thump” and in the North and West it is called “Champ.” Champ might be made with only spring onions or scallions as the greens, with no cabbage.
What Do You Eat Colcannon with?
Other St. Patrick’s Day Recipes:
- Shepherd’s Pie
- Irish Scones with Smoked Salmon
- Irish Soda Bread
- Slow Cooker Corned beef and Cabbage
- Roasted Cabbage Wedges
- Simple Beer Braised Cabbage
- Lamb Stew
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- Kosher salt for cooking the potatoes , plus 1 teaspoon more, or to taste
- 2 pounds Idaho or Yukon Gold potatoes , peeled and quartered
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter , cut into pieces, divided
- ½ cup whole milk
- ½ cup light or heavy cream or half and half (see Note)
- ½ cup sliced scallions or chopped onion
- ½ pound kale , tough stems removed, rinsed well, drained and sliced thinly into ribbons
- ½ pound shredded cabbage
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Fill a large stockpot with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add a generous amount of salt, return to a boil, then add the potatoes (the water should cover the potatoes by at least 2 inches). Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to medium and continue to simmer for 20 or so minutes, partially covered, until the potatoes are very tender when pierced with a knife.
- While the potatoes cook, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet. Add the kale and cabbage, season with salt and pepper, and saute for 6 to 8 minutes, until the vegetables have wilted and are lightly golden in some spots. Meanwhile, heat the milk and the cream together with the scallions in a pot over high heat until the mixture comes to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
- When the potatoes are cooked, drain them and return them to the pot, and place the pot back over medium-low heat. Toss the potatoes in the hot pan occasionally for 3 minutes or so until they have begun to dry out (but not to brown). Remove the pan from the stove, and put the potatoes through a ricer, or mash with a potato masher until they are smooth, or as smooth as you like them. Return them to the pot.
- Add 1 teaspoon salt, 4 tablespoons of the butter and the hot milk and cream mixture to the potatoes and stir with a wooden spoon or a whisk until well combined. Add the kale and cabbage mixture, season with black pepper to taste, and stir until the vegetables are well blended with the potatoes.
- Serve the colcannon in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the colcannon, and put the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in the center of the well to melt. Alternately you can make a mound on each person’s plate, create a small well in the center, and add a bit of butter to each portion.
The nutrition values are provided as an estimate. It is not intended as a substitute for the advice of a qualified healthcare professional.
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