With the stresses of a tranquil life disturbed finally falling away, I’m once again taking time to savor the simple pleasures of life. Fleeting moments with friends and family have become increasingly more cherished as my free time is consumed by long days at work. With tomorrow marking a great Irish holiday honoring the life and service of Saint Patrick (through typically less-than-saintly celebration), I’ve been pondering the tenacity and fortitude displayed by the natives of the Emerald Isle. Now I could never equate my comparatively luxurious living conditions to the working class of the Irish and their ancient Celtic ancestors, but I cannot help sharing in their affinity for creating and appreciating beauty in simplicity.
This past week, I had the privilege of preparing and sharing one of the creations of the pragmatically aesthetic people of pre-industrial Ireland: colcannon. As potatoes arrived in Europe in the 16th century, Ireland quickly took to the tuber simply as a means of staving off starvation. But, when Irish cooks combined mashed potatoes with their native leafy crops (like kale and cabbage, the use of which dates back to the ancient Celts), the lowly spud was transformed into a cultural dish worth celebrating. In fact, as the recipe for colcannon spread to England and the continent, it was widely regarded as a dish fit for the upper class, a far cry from its original audience. So today, on the eve of St. Patrick’s Day, I would like to pass this wonderful example of Irish culinary prowess onto you! The recipe I’ve been using relies primarily on cabbage and onions, but if you would like to throw in some kale, garlic, or even beans, these variations would all fit in with the traditional definition of Irish colcannon! And don’t be afraid to add in some of your own local and cultural ingredients: the basic process of this dish provides a wonderful backdrop to illuminate your own culinary surroundings!
Let’s dig in!
- 2 1/2 pounds of potatoes peeled and cubed (about 8 medium potatoes)
- 4 slices of bacon
- 1/2 head of chopped cabbage
- 1 chopped onion
- 1/2 cup milk (I used soy)
- salt and pepper to taste
- Place your cubed potatoes in a medium or large saucepan and cover with water. Bring water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 15 – 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender enough to offer no resistance when a knife is inserted. When potatoes are finished cooking, drain and set aside.
- In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium-high heat until both sides are evenly brown and crisp. Save the drippings in the skillet, and place cooked bacon on a paper towel to dry. Crumble dried bacon and set aside.
- In the bacon drippings, sauté the cabbage and onion until soft and lightly brown.
- In a large bowl (or the original saucepan), mash the potatoes with the milk until smooth. Fold in the bacon, cabbage, and onion and season with salt and pepper to your liking.
- Top with butter and enjoy a taste of true Irish cooking!
As always, thanks for stopping by! I hope you have a wonderful day celebrating Irish culture and heritage, and I hope to see you next time as we unearth another recipe from humanity’s communal cupboard!