Colcannon (Irish Mashed Potatoes with Kale), has quite the backstory. Potatoes are synonymous with Ireland, so you might be surprised to hear that they aren't actually native to the country. The root veggie arrived on the island in the early 1600's. It was quickly embraced by the Irish population. By 1845, the Irish diet was so dependent on potatoes that when a fungal infestation ruined the majority of the potato crop for the next seven years, over one million people died of starvation. That's when Irish people began emigrating in droves, including to America.
Kale was a staple in the ancestral Irish diet. Combining potatoes and kale resulted in a hearty dish that was more filling than simple greens. It quickly became so popular that songs were literally written about it. Now, here's the REALLY fascinating part of the story. According to Mac Con Iomaire (an Irish chef and lecturer from the Dublin Institute of Technology), Colcannon was served as a "fortune-telling dish" on Halloween. It's similar to the idea behind serving King Cake on Mardi Gras. Tokens were cooked into the dish, and whatever token was discovered in your serving was indicative of your future. A coin foretold that you would come into money, a rag meant that you would fall into poverty, and a stick meant your spouse was going to beat you. Crazy, right? Here's to a year full of coins...and no sticks.
When to serve Colcannon:
You can certainly serve Colcannon (Irish Mashed Potatoes with Kale) with Corned Beef for St. Patrick's Day dinner. However, you shouldn't count Colcannon out the rest of the year - it's a great way to kick up your winter (or Thanksgiving) sides. Since fresh kale is available from California year-rould, you could make it anytime. However, the best season for kale is late winter through spring, and that's when warm, comforting mashed potatoes make sense too.
This Kale Salad with Cranberries + Pumpkin Seeds is also great year-round. So go ahead and buy the extra bunch of kale!
- 4 russet potatoes cleaned, peeled and cut into 2 inch chunks
- 1 stick unsalted butter divided
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 2 leeks cleaned and whites thinly sliced
- 2 bunches kale stems removed and chopped
- ⅔ cup Gluten Free chicken or vegetable broth
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Place the potato chunks in a large pot and fill with water to cover.
- Bring the potatoes to a boil on medium-high heat and continue to boil until the potatoes are fork tender, 20-25 minutes.
- Place 6 tablespoons of butter, cream and garlic in a small saucepan and bring up to a simmer on medium-low heat. Cover to keep hot.
- In a large saute pan melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter on medium heat and saute the leeks for about 1 minute.
- Add the kale to the leeks and continue to saute for an additional 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
- Pour the broth over the kale and leek mixture, stir and cover.
- Allow the mixture to cook until the kale has wilted and the liquid has cooked off, about 7 minutes.
- Once the potatoes are fork tender, drain them and place them back into the pot.
- Begin mashing the potatoes, while adding the cream mixture a little at a time, until the potatoes are smooth and creamy. Season with salt and pepper.
- Fold the leeks and wilted kale into the potatoes, adjust the seasoning and serve.
Photos: Meg van der Kruik
Consider this a crash-course in taking your potatoes to the next level.
Seriously, though. Colcannon is just plain delicious.