St. Patty’s Day is here and we know by experience on March 17, everyone is a little bit Irish whether they really are or not. “Quick, kiss me! I’m Irish!”
People wear the green and revel in the day by drinking Irish ale or preparing meals for loved ones that smack of Irish tradition. One such menu item that we might even see prepared in one of our GreenAcres kitchens in Colcannon, a creamy concoction of mashed potatoes, kale or cabbage, scallions, cream and butter.
Today, Chef Jeff in our Bradley Fair store has made his own version of Colcannon with mashed russet potatoes, cream cheese and caramelized onions. YUM-O!
The British are famous for their bangers and mash; but the Irish prefer bangers and colcannon. If you’ve ever been to the Emerald Isle, you’ve probably eaten this wonderful dish of pork sausage and potatoes in a pub, along with a side of Irish soda bread. Maybe you’ve even washed it down with a pint of Guinness. Well, you don’t have to travel to Ireland to enjoy one of the gentry’s long-held menu delights. You can make it easily in your very own kitchen.
The interesting thing about Colcannon, it’s really not a spring thing, but rather a menu item served in the Fall around Halloween. We in the US serve it anytime we feel a wee bit Irish, but it has a tradition all its own.
The Irish sometimes hide charms in their Colcannon. A ring means marriage, but a thimble spells “spinsterhood.” No Irish lass worth her florid cheeks or dancing eyes wants that thimble. The Irish do love their superstitions, and they get quite a kick out of a good joke. So whether the damsels cry at the thought, they still have to dive with their forks for the Irish “charms.”
The Internet tells us that Colcannon is the first cousin to “champ,” another mashed potato dish that is made with chives instead of kale. Writes Darina Allen in her book, Irish Traditional Cooking, “A common fold custom was to offer a bowl of champ to the fairies at Halloween. This would be left on field posts or under trees, such as hawthorns or whitethorns, which were particularly associated with fairies.”
To this day, if you ask an Irishman whether he believes in fairies, he’ll no doubt say, “Yes!” My Irish grandmother swore she saw the fairies playing under the leaves of shrubs. So, it’s difficult to refute, and best left to the wonderful “keeping of the lore” that makes the Irish so unique.
Many a poet has waxed nostalgic over his victuals, and there is a limerick that serves as an ode to Colcannon. It goes like this:
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.
We offer you this version of Colcannon as you research your own Irish Day menus. All the ingredients you’ll find at any of our GreenAcres Markets. We’ll be in the stores all day, wearing the green and wishing you a happy St. Pat’s.
1 lb potato, sliced
2 medium parsnips, peeled and sliced
2 medium leeks
1 cup milk
1 lb kale or 1 lb cabbage
1/2 teaspoon mace
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
Cook the potatoes and parsnips in water until tender.
While these are cooking, chop leeks (greens as well as whites) and simmer in the milk until soft.
Next, cook the kale or cabbage and have warm and well chopped.
Drain the potatoes, season with mace, garlic, salt and pepper, and beat well.
Add the cooked leeks and milk (be careful not to break down the leeks too much).
Finally, blend in the kale or cabbage and butter.
The texture should be that of a smooth-buttery potato with well distributed pieces of leek and kale.
Garnish with parsley.
Colcannon is also made by cooking layered vegetables, starting with potatoes, in a slow-cooker during the day. Drain vegetables, blend with milk and butter as above and garnish with parsley.