It is said there are as many recipes for Colcannon as there are cooks in Ireland. Well, here is my version. My family migrated from Ireland in the early 1700’s and we my ancestors were not part of the mass migration between 1820 and 1840 and therefore were not part of the mass Irish culture of large American cities. My kin were always simple farm folks and their traditions were gone by the time they reached my great grandfather. Since the early 1800’s the Bleakney’s were as settled as Americans without the yearn for a lost fatherland. I didn’t really identify with a rich Irish tapestry, until I ate my first bite of Colcannon. That forkful of buttery mashed potatoes and cooked cabbage was like an old friend I hadn’t seen in a lifetime. I identified with that dish, I felt it in my soul.
1 lb potatoes (waxy masher like LaSoda Red, Yellow Finn, or Yukon Gold) peeled and cut into 1” pieces
½ lb sliced bacon, uncooked cut into ½” pieces
1 head of cabbage, cut in half, remove and discard core and roughly chop
½ cup stock
1 stick of lightly salted butter cut into 8 pieces
Flat leaf parsley for garnish (optional)
Boil potatoes in well salted water, use a 4 qt saucepan to keep the cooking time quick and just enough water to barley cover the potatoes. While the potatoes are cooking cook the bacon on medium high heat in a large fry pan or sauté pan. While the bacon is browning, prepare the cabbage. Cut a whole cabbage in half, remove the core and very roughly chop it up on a board.
Use your pan to help create layers of rich, intense flavors
Move the bacon to one side of the pan when it is just beginning to crisp, add all of the cabbage to the hot bacon fat and pour in the stock. Cover and let cook for 5 minutes. Remove the lid and use a tong to toss the wilted cabbage and the bacon. The cabbage might be rather “wet” at this point. Use the hot pan to reduce all of that moisture to a caramelized puddle of intensified flavor by moving the cabbage to the far side of the pan and tip it toward you to let the juice run to the opposite side of the pan. Get this reduction nice and thick. Lower the heat and cover again, allowing all of the browned bits on the bottom of the pan to soften and loosen to flavor the cabbage (7-10 minutes).
Check your potatoes for doneness, they should be easily pierced with the tip of a paring knife.
Drain your cooked potatoes, add a stick of butter to the already hot pan and return the potatoes to melt the butter and begin mashing.
When your potatoes are mashed and the cabbage is cooked tender, combine the two off the burner.
Garnish with flat parsley to doll it up because this comfort food looks like a pile of mush but the flavors are euphoric.
Serve immediately as a side or with bread and butter as a hearty main dish.