The cooking of the greens (and potatoes)
Enjoy traditional colcannon for St. Patrick's Day, or give the dish another accent
Comfort and joy: "Colcannon is another traditional mashed potato dish like 'champ,' but with kale or cabbage instead of scallions," writes author Darina Allen. (Alex Garcia/Chicago Tribune)
The traditional Irish dish is enjoyed year-round, says the redoubtable Darina Allen, who heads the world-famous Ballymaloe Cookery School in County Cork, Ireland. In Ireland, it's frequently served at Halloween, when trinkets like thimbles and wedding rings are hidden in it. The finder, it is said, will remain unmarried (the thimble, symbolizing a spinster) or marry (the wedding ring) in the coming year.
But the dish is so culturally intrinsic that it appears regularly at Irish meals, one way to use the 265 pounds of potatoes the average Irish person eats each year, according to the Irish Potato Marketing website.
In fact, wherever potatoes grow, there's a dish combining mashed potatoes with some kind of cooked greens — sometimes cabbage, more commonly kale. The Scots have rumbledethumps (which includes rutabaga, as well), the Brits have bubble and squeak, and the Germans have grunkohlsuppe, which is kale and potato soup.
The Dutch have a version, too, called "sla," which means "salad" (think "coleslaw"). Sla is a heartier form, including bacon, eggs and onion as well as kale and potatoes. But you may want to save sla for the Dutch St. Ludger's feast day, March 26.
Because, in mid-March, everyone's Irish.
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Servings: 8 as a side dish, about 4 as a main course
Note: Adapted from "Forgotten Skills of Cooking: The Time-Honored Ways Are the Best" by Darina Allen (Kyle Books, $40). "Colcannon is another traditional mashed potato dish like 'champ,' but with kale or cabbage instead of scallions," writes Allen. "For another variation, try mashed parsnips, a delightful addition."
3 pounds floury potatoes, such as Yukon Golds or Russets, unpeeled
1 pound kale
1 cup milk, about
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) butter
1. Put the potatoes in a saucepan of cold water to cover by at least 1 inch. Cover; heat to a boil over high heat. When the potatoes are half-cooked, after about 15 minutes, drain off about two-thirds of the water. Replace the lid; put the pan over low heat to allow the potatoes to steam. Heat the milk just to the boil in a small saucepan over medium heat while the potatoes finish steaming. (Take care the milk does not boil over.)