What I say is, if a man really likes potatoes,
he must be a pretty decent sort of fellow.
Colcannon (a traditional Irish song)
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, flavoured 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.
Someone recently asked me why I'm not showcasing more Irish recipes. Have you tried Irish food? (Just kidding!) (Not really.) (Please don't kick me out of the clan.) Actually, I love Irish food, with the exception of blood pudding. That's one of those things you need to grow up with for it to be comfort food. As an Irish American, and a child of New England in the '70's, my idea of comfort food is a fluffernutter sandwich with a glass of coffee milk.
Seriously, I do love Irish food, but if that's all this blog was about, I'd run out of material in about two months, since I don't actually live in Ireland. I cook EVERYTHING I like, and the only things I don't like are okra and liver. You'll see a little bit of everything sprinkled with Irish recipes here and there, but no gumbo or Pâté, ever.
Colcannon is not something I grew up with. I actually didn't start making it until I found the recipe in 2004 in the Gourmet Cookbook edited by Ruth Reichl, and this recipe is adapted from that one. I brought it to a friends house and it was a hit. The recipe has been requested several times. It's a simple dish, and meant to be simple; inexpensive, satisfying and delicious. Too much embellishment would make it something it's not supposed to be. You could melt cheddar cheese over it, but then you would have turned it into Rumbledethumps (I'm not making this up), which is a Scottish dish. Not the same thing at all. The shorter, cool nights of Fall are a great time to revisit this dish, after all, Saint Patrick's Day is just too long to wait!
2 pounds white potatoes (about 8 medium)
3/4 to 1 cup milk
1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter
1 pound cabbage (one small head, like the one shown above)
1 small leek, washed well and sliced thinly (only the white part..about 1/2 cup) *optional
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Peel and quarter potatoes. Put in a 5-quart pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are tender, about 20-25 minutes. Meanwhile melt 4 tablespoons of the butter and sauté the cabbage with the leeks, carefully, with letting them brown too much. As soon as they are soft, add 1/2 cup milk and turn burner to its lowest setting, so they barely simmer.
When potatoes are tender, drain off the water and add the remaining butter, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Beat with a hand mixer, adding just enough milk to whip them. Now stir in the cabbage/leek mixture. If that doesn't loosen it up enough, you can add a little more milk until they are the desired consistency.
*If you don't add leeks, then add 1/2 teaspoon onion powder.