Colcannon

There are versions of potatoes and cabbage or kale throughout Northern Europe. In the British Isles one finds the onomatopoeic Bubble and Squeak in England, Cawl Cennin a Thatws in Wales,  Rumpledethumps in Scotland, and Colcannon in Ireland. Like most traditional dishes from the “Old Sod,” the versions of colcannon found in the United States reflect nostalgia for a largely mythical past combined with the tastes and plenty—not to say gluttony—of the New World. It is unlikely, for example, that a 19th Century Irish peasant would have had the half pound of butter many recipes call for. My version is unapologetically American although I have tempered the excess a bit. I have used cabbage instead of the more traditional kale. I would happily use the latter, it being more flavorful, but what is available at this time of year is of dubious quality. The bacon I use is American-style or what our cousins across the Atlantic call streaky bacon. Irish bacon would be even better, just add a bit of oil or butter to make up for the lower fat content. Finally, in place of the mealy russet potatoes most recipes specify I have used small, firm boiling potatoes. I just like them better. And I left them unpeeled. Use whatever potato you prefer and peel them or not as you see fit.

Serves two as a meal.

Ingredients

 

Potatoes, whole or large cubes

600 grams

1⅓ pounds

Bacon, coarsely chopped

100 grams

2 thick slices

Cabbage, coarsely shredded

450 grams

1 pound (½ medium head)

Onion, sliced

60 grams

2 ounces (1 medium)

Heavy cream (36%)

60 milliliters

¼ cup

Butter

30 grams

2 Tablespoons

Salt and pepper

to taste

to taste

Method

Boil or steam the potatoes until soft, about 12 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool a bit.

In a large skillet over medium heat, render the bacon until nearly crispy. (If using Irish bacon put in enough butter to allow it to fry nicely, perhaps 15 milliliters (1 Tablespoon)). Add the onion and sauté until softened but not browned. Add the cabbage and toss to coat with the bacon fat or butter. Cover, turn the heat to low, and cook gently for 10 to 15 minutes or until the cabbage is soft.

 When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut them into small cubes and place into a large bowl. Mash along with the cream and butter until smooth but still a bit lumpy. Fold in the cabbage, bacon, and onion. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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