I’m not really the kind of person to post Irish dishes simply because it’s Saint Patrick’s Day. In all honesty, this meal came about from searching for something to accompany the nice Irish bacon that I get from my CSA.
While idea hunting, I came across colcannon, and somewhere in the dusty outer reaches of my memory came the image of mashed potatoes and winter greens mushed together. Not quite sure where I had it first; it might have been at some random inn or, more likely, some Irish pub in Boston. In any case, it didn’t make that much of an impression on me at the time. Furthermore, I would have never considered making it if I hadn’t read this from The Country Cooking of Ireland by Colman Andrews:
“To serve [colcannon] in the traditional Irish manner, push the back of a large soup spoon down in the middle of each portion to make a crater, then put a large pat of room-temperature butter into each one to make a ‘lake.’ Diners dip each forkful of colcannon into the butter until its walls are breached.”
If I had known that you were supposed to eat colcannon that way . . . well, let’s just say that it would have been dangerous. Dangerously delicious, I mean!
In his recipe, Andrews asks you to heat the milk together with chopped green onions, and then beat the hot infused milk into the mashed potatoes. I actually spaced out and tipped all my cold milk into the potatoes before I remembered that step. Regardless, it still tasted wonderful.
So if you think that a dipping “lake” of melted butter for your mashed potatoes and greens (which might as well be ornamental at this point) sounds as awesome as it does to me, than colcannon is definitely for you!
And once those “walls are breached,” Irish bacon tastes pretty darn good in the ensuing butter flood. Don’t forget the mustard!
2 large Russet (or floury) potatoes, about 2 pounds, peeled and cut into large dice
1 cup of whole milk
6-8 tablespoons of butter at room temperature
Salt and freshly ground pepper
About a pound of Irish bacon
Coarse Dijon mustard
How to prepare:
1. Place the diced potatoes in a large pot of salted water and bring everything to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the potatoes until they can be easily crushed against the side of the pot with the back of a wooden spoon. Drain the potatoes well. Add two tablespoons of butter and the cup of milk to the potatoes. Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes until all the potato pieces are crushed. If the mash doesn’t seem sufficiently nice and fluffy, add some more milk, a little bit at a time, until it has the right consistency. Cover the pot while you prepare the rest.
2. Melt about a tablespoon of butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the cut kale and a little bit of water (about a tablespoon). Season the kale with salt and pepper. Sauté the kale until it begins to wilt. Tip the kale into the potatoes and stir everything together to combine. Adjust the seasoning.
3. Brown the Irish bacon slices on both sides in a large cast-iron skillet. Transfer the browned slices to paper towels to drain.
4. Mound a good amount of warm colcannon on each plate. Using the back of a spoon, make wells in the middle of each mound and put a hefty knob of butter in each one.
Serve your colcannon with a few slices of Irish bacon and grainy mustard on the side.