How We Survived... (Colcannon)

By • May 19, 2011 • 77 Comments

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Author Notes: When I think of a dirt cheap meal, many things come to mind (including things that make me want to get up on a high horse about how so many "cheap" foods have hidden costs and that we overvalue low cost in our society when it comes to food and blahblahblah). But, one of the main thoughts that pops into my head is about the foods that poor people, you know, the "commoners," have used to survive for centuries through dry seasons or long cold winters.
In much of the world this survival food is rice and legumes, or cornmeal porridge. But, for those of us from far far north it was storage vegetables and protein sources you caught. Two of the most basic survival meals in Norway through the years were lamb and cabbage stew (actually they used to use mutton, now they use lamb) or codfish and potatoes. It's actually a little funny because these days lamb and codfish aren't necessarily cheap. But cabbage and potatoes still are. And, I nearly always have some hanging around.
So, I decided to combine them for a dirt cheap dinner, augmenting them with the warm flavors of garlic and peppercorns. And then as I went to serve it, I realized, 'oh, I've just recreated colcannon. Ha.' But, a super delicious, personalized version of colcannon. And of course, as soon as I realized this I had to run and get some butter to add the butter eye (is that what it is called in English?)
The trick to making this wonderful is to treat both the potato mashing and the cabbage cooking with great respect. I rice the potatoes instead of smashing them to keep them light. And, I definitely think sauteeing the cabbage is preferable to boiling (although boiling would correspond more with a lot of the food of my childhood!). It's filling enough to be a whole meal by itself, and is easily doubled or even tripled. And it makes for a pretty balanced meal too. - fiveandspice
fiveandspice

Food52 Review: Fiveandspice's version of a classic Irish colcannon is truly a great dish that keeps you coming back for more. The sauteed cabbage caramelized and added a nice texture and color to the mashed potatoes. I loved the garlic and peppercorn infused milk that mixed in with the potatoes. Filling enough to be served on it's own, I paired How We Survived... with a piece of grilled salmon for a delicious meal. - jvcooksjvcooks

Serves 3 or so as a main dish

  • 2 large Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup whole milk or heavy cream
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 6 tablespoons butter, divided (I used unsalted, but you can use whatever you have)
  • 1/2 head of green cabbage, thinly sliced and cut into about 2 1/2 inch strips
  • 3 tablespoons chopped chives or green onions, from the back yard :)
  1. Bring a pot of water with the potatoes to boil, turn down to a simmer, cover and cook until the potatoes are just fork tender. Drain.
  2. In the meantime, combine the milk/cream, garlic, and peppercorns in a small saucepan. Bring just to a simmer, then remove from the heat, stir in the sugar and salt and allow to infuse while the potatoes cook.
  3. In a large frying pan, melt 1 Tbs. of the butter over medium-high heat until foaming, then add the cabbage, stirring occasionally, and cook until softened and starting to get nicely browned in places. Remove from the heat.
  4. Cut 3 of the remaining Tbs. of butter into chunks and place them in the bottom of a bowl. Strain the infused milk/cream into the bowl. Then, using a potato ricer, rice the potatoes into the bowl. Gently fold the potatoes, cream and butter together with a wooden spoon. Then gently stir in the cabbage and the chives/green onions. Season with more salt to taste.
  5. Divide into bowls. Make a little divot in the potato-cabbage mixture in each bowl and add a pat of the remaining butter to each.
  6. If you have any leftovers, you can make them into potato-cabbage cakes the next day. Just stir in 1 beaten egg per cup of leftovers. Mix just until combined, then gently form the mixture into patties. Fry in butter until golden brown on each side, then serve. Yum.
Jump to Comments (77)

Tags: colcannon

Comments (77) Questions (1)

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Open-uri20140713-32310-17kojl8

21 days ago Barbara Olsen

Oh how funny I see I already wrote about about this 8 months ago, my almost 80 year old memory forgot

Open-uri20140713-32310-17kojl8

21 days ago Barbara Olsen

I'm very excited to see this, in March I will be 80. My dad was an early immigrant from Ireland and he tried to tell my mother ( who was from Kansas) how to cook this potatoes dish. He called it something that sounds like this "Bruchen" I have always wondered if that was a Gaelic translation. My mom used to cook what I will call mashed potatoes that had garlic salt, pepper butter

Open-uri20140713-32310-17kojl8

21 days ago Barbara Olsen

And cream,I have always thought it had scallions in it but I was a kid . She would put the potatoes in our bowel then a knob of butter and the warmed milk/cream. I have never met anyone who had this kind of memory. I am assuming my dad may not have known about the cabbage, or maybe it was me too young too recognize it.... Anyhow thanks for a dish that brings me back to Donegal and my dad.

Stringio

22 days ago Miranda Nichole Tolson

doesn't authentic colcannon from Ireland have bacon or ham in it? I saw an episode where Tyler Florence was in Ireland and I'm pretty sure the girl used bacon

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8 months ago Victoria Brooks

I remember having a festival of sorts where everyone had to cook an ethnic dish for our residents to enjoy. I prepared 'Rumpeldythumps', a Scottish dish, which comprised russet potatoes boiled, mashed with butter and half & half. Sautéed cabbage and onions were added to this, placed in individual ramekins and sharp Cabbots cheddar was shredded and placed on top before placing under a broiler. Tasty!

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8 months ago CookOnTheFly

Made this tonight for my doubting British-heritage boyfriend. He is now a convert. He had no idea how yummy cabbage and potatoes could be together.

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8 months ago deanna1001

Making this tonight to serve along with corned beef. I will be expecting raves! Thanks again for a great recipe!

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8 months ago Ellen Fournier

I used to make colcannon when my kids were at home, but I confess I topped it with grated cheddar. thanks for the reminder; I think I'll make it tonight, sans cheese.

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8 months ago Rkelly3042

Liked the Colcannon-I admit I added leek..my Irish hub liked it a lot

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9 months ago walkie74

How is this recipe on gas? My Irish blooded friend threatened to, um, stinkbomb my house if I served cabbage, due to its effects.

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9 months ago Mary Heseltine

When you know that the staple diet in 19th century Ireland was potatoes cooked in their jackets and tumbled out onto the table top, dressed only with salt & butter - if you had a cow - you will understand that this version of colcannon is unutterably luxurious! The colcannon I was brought up with was mashed potato mixed with chopped scallions and kale, long before it got fashionable! Definitely some butter, but absolutely no cream. The moisture from the kale was/is enough to keep it soft. And, yes, there was always a little pool of melted butter in a hollow made by the wooden spoon as the finishing touch! We'll probably have some on St Patrick's Day this coming weekend. With the leftovers of the baked ham chopped and stirred into little potato cakes (no egg) fried gently in butter the following day. Lá Féile Pádraig sona daoibh!

Sausage2

9 months ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

I think it could work. Adding just a touch more cream and butter would help loosen it back up as it warms.

Open-uri20140713-32310-17kojl8

9 months ago Barbara Olsen

Oh I forgot to add I will use your recipe and Kerry gold irish butter, this will be a great recipe to add to my irish heritage, thanks.

Open-uri20140713-32310-17kojl8

9 months ago Barbara Olsen

My father was an Irish immigrant and one of the dishes my mother used to
attempt to make for him was similar she would cook russet potatoes and mash them with butter and cream along with chopped scallions, S&P. In another pot she would warm half, and divide the potatoes in to three bowls put a divot in the middle of the mound , which we were told to bury the hunk of butter i the mound and then she poured the warmed milk over. There was'nt any cabbage in it and my dad called it something that sounds like this "bruchen"

Mata_240

9 months ago jthelwell

The first time I had Colcannon, it was served spread on a baked ham steak. Have to try that this weekend.

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9 months ago Barbaralhomme

The McKenna/Galvin family has been enjoying colcannon for years. thank you for sharing .

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9 months ago Lorenza

Slainte'!!!
Blasted auto correct.....

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9 months ago Lorenza

Slain the, indeed!
This will be a perfect accompaniment to our St. Paddy's Day corned beef. A great change up from the expected boiled cabbage,carrots, and potatoes.

Awesome!!!

9 months ago froggie

nutmeg is a lovely addition, lorenza. :-) i added 1/3c roughly shredded fresh brussel sprouts (in the carmelizing step) and a few nubs of farmer's cheese + 1%milk in place of the cream. still pretty rich tasting, but w/ less fat. ps - if you give it a few "pats o irish butter" up top then that kind of cancels out the making it healthier part. ahhh well. we are a funny people. slainte!

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9 months ago Lorenza

And I cannot help myself from adding a bit of grated nutmeg to the milk/cream infusion. Plan to serve as a hearty side with meatloaf. Thanks for your lovely memory and recipe.

Stringio

9 months ago Madelaine Linebarger

Colcannon is one dish I do not lighten up, you just can't! I always buy Irish butter for it!

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9 months ago Jack Gaffney

If you're vegan like I am - not much of a choice! LOL