A traditional — and versatile — Irish dish
Thrice-Baked Potato Skins –– Stuff leftover colcannon in a hollowed-out baked potato, and you have a tasty side dish that can double as an entrée with the addition of a simple salad.

A traditional — and versatile — Irish dish

For St. Patrick’s Day, a batch of colcannon is peasant comfort food at its best. It can also serve as the ingredient of honor in other meals served any time of the day.

BELLOWS FALLS — St. Patrick's Day is almost here, and it is a time to visit some of the traditional dishes that traveled from Ireland to our New England communities. We're talking not about green bagels or green beer here, but about the home-cooked dishes that called the hungry to the table.

Colcannon is peasant comfort food at its best. This combination of mashed potatoes and cabbage is tasty, satisfying, and filling, and it uses easily found, inexpensive ingredients. This humble bowl of mash is served either on its own (with a pool of melted butter in the center) or accompanied by a protein, often Irish bacon or sausages.

It could also tell your fortune! According to Smithsonian magazine (October 2018), colcannon was often served on Halloween, with the addition of tokens - such as coins, symbolizing wealth - to predict the coming year.

At this time of year, we can easily make colcannon from local produce from our winter markets! Kale is often substituted for the cabbage, and various herbs can be added for interest, such as scallions, chives, parsley, or rosemary.

While delicious and satisfying, colcannon can be on the heavy side. With many folks watching their carbs, lightening it up is actually easy without sacrificing flavor - just substitute some of the potatoes with either riced cauliflower or celeriac. The exact proportions are not important. In this dish, I've used both.

We need color this time of year. I chose blue- and red-skinned potatoes, scrubbed but unpeeled; carrots for flavor and color; and purple cabbage. If you can find purple- or pink-fleshed potatoes, use those, because they have a higher mineral content than the white ones do.

Usually, the cabbage is sautéed and added to the mash, but I've found that roasting it in the oven gives it a more intense flavor with a bonus of crispy bits. Plus, you don't have to babysit it on the stove; it can roast away while the other vegetables simmer.

In my family, our mashed potatoes are laced with roasted garlic. The little heads can roast right alongside the cabbage and onions, and they lend a lovely flavor to the whole dish.

Any recipe that can be used for two or more meals means fast food on another day, especially if it can be transformed into a totally different meal with little effort. Make a big batch of this colcannon, and you can use the leftovers later in the week in other dishes, from breakfast to dinner.

Rice the cauliflower in a food processor, or buy already-riced to save time. You can make this recipe nondairy by substituting your favorite plant-based milk and vegan butter. In keeping with the Irish theme, I used oat milk here just for fun.

Of course, you can also add coins, or other charms, and predict everyone's future!

Colcannon Revisited

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Place in a large pot of salted, cold water:

¶2 lbs. potatoes, a mix of colors, diced

¶1 small head celeriac, diced

¶2 carrots, chopped

Bring to a boil, cover, reduce to low, and simmer until the vegetables are nearly cooked, about 30 minutes.

In the meantime, on a baking sheet brushed with olive oil, spread out:

¶1 small head cabbage, sliced

¶1 large onion, sliced

¶1 large head of garlic, wrapped in foil

Bake for 30 minutes or so, turning once. The cabbage will be cooked with little crispy edges around the outside. Set aside.

Squeeze the garlic cloves out of the head and mash with a fork. Set aside.

To the potatoes, add:

¶{1/2} lb. (approximate) cauliflower, riced or finely chopped

Continue cooking until everything has softened for easy mashing. Drain and place in a large bowl.

With a hand masher, start mashing the vegetables. Add the mashed garlic, plus:

¶{1/2} stick butter or vegan butter, melted

¶1 Tbsp. chives or other herbs, minced

¶Lots of freshly grated black pepper

¶Salt to taste

Combine ingredients well, and drizzle with:

¶{3/4} cup warmed milk (or plant-based substitute)

Add the cabbage and onions and mix well.

Serve with a few pats of butter in the center, and garnish with:

¶2 scallions, minced

Thrice-Cooked Colcannon Potato Skins

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and bake until tender:

¶2 large Russet potatoes

Let them cool until you can handle them.

Scoop out the insides, into a bowl, leaving a margin of potato on the peel. Mix in:

¶2 cups leftover colcannon (recipe above)

¶2 Tbsp. snipped chives or parsley

Stuff the mixture back into the shells and turn the oven heat up to 450.

In a small saucepan, combine:

¶2 Tbsp. butter

¶{1/2} cup panko breadcrumbs

¶1 tsp. paprika

¶2 cloves garlic, finely minced

Cook, stirring frequently, until the crumbs are just starting to brown.

Top the potatoes with the crumb mixture and pop them back in the oven. Cook for 10 minutes or until the crumbs have finished browning.

You can also top the potatoes with cheese rather than the bread-crumb mixture, even faster!

Irish Potato Cake

The day after you make the colcannon, combine:

¶2 cups colcannon (recipe above)

¶{1/2} cup onion or shallot, finely minced

¶{1/4} cup flour

¶2 Tbsp. parsley, minced

Mix and set aside.

Heat a nonstick skillet or cast-iron frying pan over medium high. Add:

¶2 Tbsp. olive oil

Add the colcannon mixture to the pan. Pat everything down and let it cook until the bottom is browned.

Slide the cake onto a plate, place the pan on top, and flip to brown the other side.

Serve straight up, or top with fried eggs, scallions, parsley, sour cream, toasted caraway seeds, or even ketchup!

You can also form the mixture into patties and make individual servings.

Colcannon Soup

If you have leftover colcannon, use it to make this hearty soup.

In a large pot, sauté:

¶2 Tbsp. olive oil

¶1 large yellow onion, diced

Cook for 5 minutes or so, and add:

¶2 cloves garlic, minced

Sauté until garlic is fragrant and add:

¶2 cups leftover colcannon

¶3 cups vegetable stock

Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes.


¶1 cup light cream or light coconut milk

¶2 Tbsp. fresh basil, minced

Heat for a few more minutes and serve with a drizzle of pesto or sour cream.

Note: If you have no leftovers, simply substitute 2 cups of diced potatoes and 2 cups of shredded cabbage for the leftover colcannon. Cook everything together until the potatoes are soft.

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