NOTE: An updated version of this recipe appears in my cookbook, The Ancestral Table.
Although there are variations of potato/kale combos found all over Europe, I’m inclined to believe that the Irish variation, colcannon, is grandaddy of them all. First of all, the Irish basically own the creative rights to cabbage. The Romans introduced cabbage to most of Europe back in the day, except that when they got to Ireland it was already there! By tracing the word for cabbage linguistically, it appears that cabbage has been a part of the Irish (well, Celt at the time) diet since the Iron age. Potatoes weren’t introduced to Europe until the 16th Century, with the Irish and French being the first to really embrace them, and so colcannon came about sometime thereafter.
Although colcannon is treated as a St. Patrick’s Day dish here in the US, it’s traditionally a Halloween dish in Ireland. Some families would put a plate of colcannon outside their front door with a large chunk of butter in the middle to feed ghosts/fairies that were passing by. It also was closely related to marriage divination, in that trinkets (wedding rings, coins) would be hidden in the colcannon and the girl that found the trinket would be the next to marry.
2 lbs potatoes (russet or yukon gold)
1/2 cup onion, leek, or green onion, chopped finely
6 tbsp butter
1 cup heavy cream
3 cups kale (stems removed, about five stalks)
salt and pepper to taste, probably about 1/2 tsp each
Wash and peel your potatoes, and then take a pretty picture of them.
Next, cut the potatoes into large, evenly-sized chunks. Fill the pot with cold water, enough to cover the potatoes by a good inch. Bring to a boil and gently boil for about 15 minutes, until fork-tender.
Meanwhile, separate your kale from their stems, and chop into small pieces.
Don’t throw out your kale stems! They can be used in all sorts of ways, like kale stem pesto.
Also, chop up your leek, green onions, or regular onion and set it aside. Leeks are the more traditional of the three (and what I used), but they’re a little harder to find, so any of these onion-esque ingredients would be fine.
Once the potatoes are ready, drain them and set them aside. Using that same pot, add the butter and heat it on medium heat. Once it’s melted, add the leek and simmer for about one minute.
Add the kale and sauté for another 3 minutes, until the kale has softened but before it starts to darken. Add the potatoes and cream, reduce the heat to med/low, and mash everything together with a potato masher. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve immediately. The dish goes well with savory meats, sausage especially. The chicken and apple sausage from US Wellness Meats was an excellent pairing with the colcannon’s creamy taste, and I’ll have another sausage recipe on the site in the next couple days as well.