Queenie Cooks: Colcannon

By: Terry Harris | Email: Click Here
Posted: April 6, 2019 | 08:05 a.m.

“Did you ever make colcannon made with lovely pickled cream,

With the greens and scallions mingled like a picture in a dream?

Did you ever make a hole on top to hold the meltin’ flake

Of the creamy flavored butter that our mothers used to make?”

MMMMMMMM, this week’s recipe for Colcannon, a scrumptious dish made of potatoes and spring greens and lots of butter, is so wonderful that it actually has its own song!  True story. And according to a quick google search, It was introduced to the English in the 1800s where it quickly became an upper class favorite, but one of the earliest Irish references to the dish was in the Diary of William Bulkely, of Bryndda, near Amlwch in Anglesey in about 1735 after he traveled to Dublin.  Who knew?  All I know is that I had so much fun trying it one day a couple of years ago that I decided y’all have to have it, too. 

Here’s what happened on that fateful day. I’d planned to make parmesan mashed potatoes. They sounded good, and I’d already lined up the potatoes, butter, cream, and fresh-grated parmesan cheese to prepare them, but… I really felt like I wanted to do something a little bit different, 

I like to make each serving or this old, traditional Irish favorite individually with its own pat of butter in a well in the center

Now, here’s a little secret about how I cook: it’s, well… backwards. Sometimes due to being frugal and sometimes just because I’m feeling too lazy –  or busy! (Yeah, that sounds better) to go to the grocery store, I tend to be more of a “What-can-I-make-from-what-I-have-on-hand” kind of cook than a “What can I go get to make what I want?” type. In fact, I’m so known for loving to experiment with food (Life’s supposed to be an adventure, right?) that friends often pop up on messenger saying things like, “I’m bored with every single thing I can THINK of to do with this stupid chicken.  Help?” I’ll ask a few “Do you have any…?” questions and then come up with something different and fun that they can make for dinner based on – yep – what they already have. It’s like a game for me, and I actually love it!  (I know.  I’m warped.)  

But back to today’s recipe. I already had the potatoes, and as I was digging through the cabinets and the pantry and the freezer and my BRAIN trying to think what I could do with those that would be interesting and fun and tasty my eyes fell upon the nice, big bag of fresh mixed greens that my sister had given me that afternoon.  Now, I love potatoes, and I love fresh, spring green, but… in one recipe?  Well, knowing that I had nothing in my repertoire that would include the two, I did a quick google search for “mixed spring greens and potatoes recipe” and – TA DA!  Colcannon!  

You’ll never believe how good a few potatoes, some fresh spring greens, a bit of spring onion, and some salt and pepper and butter can taste!

To begin with, the name intrigued me.  I mean, it’s not surprising that the Irish have all sorts of ways of cooking potatoes.  And they use colorful names like champ, bruisy, pandy and boxty, each, no doubt, with its own crazy origin.  But I had to laugh when I discovered that apparently the name colcannon originated in the 18th century when cannonballs were used to pound such vegetables as spinach. How colorful is that?

Then I looked over the short list of ingredients.  Mixed greens – check.  Potatoes – check.  Butter – check.  Green onions… no got.  As for “running out to the store, see previous.  BUT – since my chives had been growing like crazy with all the early spring weather, I was set! I quickly followed the simple directions, and there are only three  tips I can offer for this recipe, all related to preparing the greens. Ready? After removing the tough stem-ends extending beyond the leafy part, 1- Rinse well.  2 – Rinse well.  3 – Rinse well.  I know few food-related things worse than getting all excited about some lovely fresh greens and biting into grit. 

Colcannon can be served family style in a big bowl in the center of the table, but… (2)

Well, the Colcannon only took about 30 minutes to whip up, and confess that I used milk instead of cream the first time, because that’s what I had on hand.  And when it was all done, I dragged out a handmade bowl I got from some Bedouins in the Middle East, dished up the wonderful-smelling potatoes and greens mixture, made the traditional “well” in the center, plopped in a knob of butter for dipping and mmmmmm…  If ever there was a recipe to get one to eat one’s greens, this is it.  It is absolutely, positively delicious.  

I read that you can mix some crispy bacon with it to keep with tradition, and that sounds good to me!  Also, it’s entirely possible that a bit of that parmesan cheese got sprinkled on it “just to try”… (wink-wink, nudge-nudge.)  Yeah, strictly non-traditional, but that’s how Queenie rolls. Let’s just say that if I HAD done that little parmesan cheese addition thing, I’m sure that it “would have been” delicious that way, too!  But let’s just keep that from our “traditional” Irish friends, ok?  Enjoy!  

Do let me know how you like this or any of the other recipes. Just email smilinatyanow@aol.com ) and let’s talk about how to make food fun, frugal and fabulous!

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