St. Patrick’s Day: Colcannon (Irish mashed potatoes and cabbage)

In colcannon, mashed potatoes and cabbage are combined to create a dish that will feel like a welcome to the Emerald Isle on St. Patrick's Day.

The Runaway Spoon
Melt a pat of butter in the center of the colcannon and serve in big scoops.

Colcannon is a traditional Irish dish that showcases the true brilliance of that culture’s rustic cuisine. Simple, staple ingredients transformed into something all together luscious and comforting. Mashed potatoes and cabbage are combined with a touch of leek and lots of rich dairy to create a dish that will fell like a welcome home, even if, like me, you’ve never been to Ireland.

I like to use napa cabbage because I find it slightly sweeter and milder, but classic green cabbage or savoy cabbage works just as well, and gives it a more traditional green speckle to the dish.

Colcannon is a great side dish to lamb or beef, particularly corned beef for St. Patrick’s Day.

Colcannon (Irish mashed potatoes and cabbage)
Serves 4 to 6 

2 large russet potatoes (about 2 pounds)

1/2 head of napa cabbage (about 2 pounds)

2 large leeks, white and light green parts

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, divided

1 cup buttermilk

Salt to tast

1. Peel the potatoes, cut into chunks and place in a large pot. Cover with well-salted water by about 1 inch and bring to a boil. Cook the potatoes until very tender and a knife slides in easily, about 20 minutes. Drain the potatoes and place in a large bowl. Heat the buttermilk to just warm in a small pan or the microwave and add 1/2 cup to the potatoes. Mash the potatoes with a potato masher or sturdy wooden spoon until you have a nice, creamy mash. Stir in salt to taste.

2. While the potatoes are cooking, slice the leeks into thin half-moons and rinse thoroughly in a colander. Wipe out the pot and melt 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) of the butter in it. Add the leeks with some water clinging to them and cook until they begin to soften and become translucent. Stir frequently and do not let the leeks brown. Add 1/4 cup of water, cover the pot and continue cooking, stirring occasionally until the leeks are completely soft and translucent.

3. Cut out the tough core of the cabbage half and slice into thin shreds. Rinse the cabbage shreds in the colander, then add them to the pot with some water clinging. Stir to combine the leeks and cabbage and coat the cabbage with the cooking juices. Cover the pot and cook until the cabbage is completely soft and wilted, about 15 minutes. Stir a few times and add a few tablespoons more water if there is any worry of the cabbage scorching or sticking.

4. When the cabbage is cooked, add it to the potatoes in the bowl and fold through. Add buttermilk as needed to create a creamy, rich texture and salt as needed.

5. Scoop the colcannon into a large serving bowl and make a well in the center. Cut the butter into small pats and place in the well to melt. Serve scoops of colcannon with the melting butter.

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