Mashed potatoes are the ultimate comfort food. And Colcannon may just be the ultimate mashed potato recipe.
It’s so well loved in Ireland that there’s a delightful traditional song dedicated to the dish.
While the potato has long been associated with the Irish, these versatile tubers didn’t make their way from the New World to Ireland until the 16th century. It didn’t take long before the Irish people made it their own. The earliest mention of Colcannon can be found in the diaries of William Bulkeley (1691 – 1760).
The dish is closely associated with Halloween in Ireland. However, I like to serve it up as part of my Imbrida (Imbolc, St. Brigid’s Day) feast in honor of my Gaelic ancestors and in keeping with my own Imbrida tradition of clearing out the pantry. It’s time to divest myself of root vegetables and winter squashes for spring is around the corner, and fresh greens are nigh.
I also made colcannon for St. Patrick’s Day, I wanted to add some extra Irishness– hence the whiskey and plenty of butter and cream. There’s no need to worry about the alcohol content, as it will evaporate when used to de-glaze the pan. The whiskey adds a sweet, complex note to the dish and I highly recommend not leaving it out, but if you must, use a bit of broth to de-glaze instead. But know that I judge you.
I took this dish to a friend’s annual St. Paddy’s Day potluck and it was met with positive reviews including “I’ve had a lot of colcannon at this party over the years, and this is definitely the best.”
I saved a bit of it and we had it with our Vernalia feast a few days later as well. I hope I’m not setting to much of a precedent with all this colcannon. It is absolutely worth the trouble, but it is a fair bit of work for what is basically mashed potatoes. Still, I doubt we’ve seen the last of it around here.
- 1 pound russet potatoes peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
- 1 pound Yukon gold potatoes peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
- 1 tablespoon ground sea salt divided
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 pound green cabbage Cut into 1/2 in. slices. You can substitute Kale for all or part of the cabbage. The deep green of the kale makes a nice contrast with the creamy white of teh potatoes.
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 ounces Irish whiskey (Jameson's works well)
- 4 ounces half and half
- Combine the potatoes and 1 teaspoon of the sea salt in a 4-quart saucepan. Add just enough cold water to cover the potatoes, cover and bring to a boil over high heat, about 15 minutes. Remove the lid, drop the heat to a simmer, and cook until the potatoes are soft about another 15 minutes
- Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large, high-sided saute pan over medium-high heat. Cook until the butter just starts to brown.
- Add the cabbage to the pan and another 1 teaspoon sea salt and all the pepper. Sauté for 7 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is tender and lightly browned. Remove from heat and add the whiskey, scraping the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Set aside.
- Drain the potatoes and return them to the hot pot. Shake for 30 seconds so the excess water can evaporate.
- Sprinkle potatoes with the remaining 1 teaspoon sea salt. Add the cabbage/whiskey mixture and the half and half then mash the potatoes to desired consistency. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper, if desired.
- Traditionally served with a melty pat of butter in a well on top. However there is A LOT of butter and cream in this recipe already, so the pat is optional
Also optional: Mix in crispy cooked crumbled bacon, or sprinkle it on top of individual servings.