Colcannon is a customary Irish potato dish that is not only rich in flavor, but folklore and history as well. It’s also a perfect recipe to make with the kids while sharing its interesting history! Contrary to popular belief that this is a St. Patrick’s Day dish, by tradition, it’s actually made on All Saints Day or Halloween. Some families would leave out a plate of it, with a lump of butter in the center for the fairies and the ghosts. In my opinion, this scrumptious time-honored Irish dish can be served up hot, to warm the soul and fill the stomach, any time of year. Not to mention, this is one time when slightly lumpy potatoes are preferred!
3 pounds red skinned potatoes, scrubbed
3-4 garlic cloves, whole
1-2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons of organic salted butter
1 1/4 cups hot organic whole milk
Freshly ground black pepper
1 head cabbage, cored and shredded
1 small white or yellow onion, finely chopped
3/4 -1 cup water or chicken broth
1 pound cooked cubed ham or fried bacon. Turkey ham or bacon can be substituted, but regular is preferred for the fullest flavor
5 scallions, finely chopped
A pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
Chopped parsley leaves, for garnish
Cut scrubbed red skinned potatoes into ½ inch cubes. Add potatoes “in their red jackets” and garlic cloves into a large pot, cover with cold water; add 1-2 tablespoons of kosher salt. Bring to a full boil, reduce heat and simmer until fork tender, approximately 20-25 minutes. Drain into colander and place back into pot. If you prefer, “dry” the potatoes slightly by placing them over a low heat while gently stirring for approximately 2-3 minutes. Drying the potatoes will allow them to accept the remaining ingredients for the fullest flavor. Mash, with potato masher by hand, to remove most of the lumps—this method will allow for its smooth yet semi-course, slightly lumpy consistency. While mashing, add 1 1/2 sticks of butter in pieces. Gradually pour in hot milk, stirring all the while. Season with nutmeg, additional salt and a few grinds of black pepper to taste.
In separate pan, sauté cabbage and onion in 2 tablespoons of butter to tenderize, 3-4 minutes. Add 3/4 -1 cup of water or chicken broth, bring to a simmer, cover with lid and simmer for no more than 5 additional minutes. Drain the remaining liquid if necessary. Chop into small pieces if preferred, but I like the texture the cabbage provides, so this step is optional. Add cooked ham or bacon to pan and slightly warm.
Add cabbage, onion and ham mixture, and scallions to mashed potatoes, stirring them in gently.
Serve in 4 individual soup bowls or plates. Make a groove on the top by swirling a wooden spoon. Put 1 tablespoon of butter into each groove. Sprinkle with parsley and or additional scallions and fresh cracked pepper.