Rolling out a recipe for a creamy mashed potato side as only the Irish can do it. Brown Butter Colcannon combines mashed with fall’s hearty leafy greens, cream, green onions, and glorious brown butter, for a truly sexy bowl of spuds!
Sexy Spuds and Leafy Greens
The words ‘sexy’ and ‘potato’ rarely go together. Likewise for cabbage, or Swiss chard. The one leafy green that may be considered ‘sexy’ could be kale, due to its rise in popularity in recent years. (It’s a sexy leaf!) Cold weather, hearty leafy vegetables and all frequently leveraged in a steaming pot of Colcannon. But, not necessarily sexy.
Colcannon’s Irish Origins
Colcannon is a cellar-inspired sidedish, born of poverty. It’s what farmers ate in the cold of an Irish winter when food was scarce. Foods that were frost hearty (kale) and cellar well (potatoes, chard, cabbage) with fresh dairy from the family cow (cream and butter).
Paired with a joint of meat, or a decent sausage, Colcannon fills the plate, and the belly for pennies then, and now.
Some of our favorite meals are ‘peasant-based’. Dishes like Jambalaya, Tartiflette, and Ratatouille, are all country fare, making the most of what we’ve got.
All Hail The Lowly Cabbage
Cabbage is low-cal, low-cost, and contains a massive amount of vitamin C and K, Foilite, Vitamin B6, minerals plus powerful antioxidants that help reduce inflammation. It’s also an excellent source of dietary fiber, to aid in gut health and keep that digestive furnace running clean.
A poor man’s resource, cabbage has long been associated with thrift. In times before refrigeration cabbage would hold in the cellar for the long months of winter. Along with onions, potatoes, beets & carrots, cabbage has fostered many of the staple dishes we know today, particularly in Northern climates.
Borscht, Cabbage Rolls, Braised Cabbage, Coleslaw, Sourcrout, Kimchi, and of course, Colcannon.
Picking The Right Potato
A great mashed potato starts with the right potato! Many use Russet Potatoes for their mash. Russets are porous, and they absorb moisture well, so they make TERRIFIC fries, but soggy mashed potatoes (in my humble opinion). Instead look for, firm white or yellow-fleshed potatoes, like Yukon Gold.
Fine-grained and waxy, Yukon Golds hold well and are a terrific all-around potato. They keep their shape in soups or stews, shingle beautifully for scalloped, and mash extremely well.
I have long found that many challenges in the kitchen can be overcome with a bit of butter. Melt that butter and let it continue to stand over that heat as the milk solids slowly cook and brown and you’ve got Brown Butter.
Brown Butter is rich and nutty, with a deep, buttery aroma.
Use half your hot brown butter in the mash with your warm cream, then add your green onions right into the hot brown butter and listen to that sizzle! Finish a rustic, spoon-leveled bowl of Brown Butter Colcannon with the hot, sizzling butter so it puddles and pools on top. Making each scoop rich and brown buttery.
Brown Butter Colcannon combines mashed with fall’s hearty leafy greens, cream, green onions and brown butter, for a truly sexy bowl of spuds! Pair it with a good sausage, your best roasted chicken, or a nice, juicy chop for a satisfying winter meal packed with nutrition.
In a medium-sized pot; add peeled potatoes to COLD, salted water and bring to a rapid boil. Then reduce heat to a low boil until your potatoes are cooked through and easily pierced with a pairing knife.
Chop butter into 1-inch cubes and place in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Place over medium heat to melt, then DON’T MOVE YOUR BUTTER. Let the butter continue to cook, watching to ensure it doesn’t scorch or burn. After about 5 minutes, the milk solids will slowly brown and sink to the bottom and a golden-brown foam will form on top. Once butter is at a nice, nutty-brown colour, remove it from the heat until needed.
While the potatoes cook, sautee your cabbage using a large pan over medium-high heat. Add your olive oil, and heat until shimmering in the bottom of the pan. Now add cabbage and toss in the oil. Watch for splatter, as there will likely be some water on the cabbage. Then add about a 1/4 cup of water to steam your cabbage, reduce heat to medium and cover with a tight-fitting lid to steam, about 5 minutes.
Once the cabbage is starting to turn nice, bright green add your leeks and cook another five minutes or so, until soft and transparent. Remove from heat and reserve until potatoes are ready.
Once potatoes are fully cooked, strain, and let stand for 2 minutes to allow potatoes to dry on the outside, then add directly back into the pot you boiled them in. Warm your cream in the microwave or in a small pot, just until scalded and steaming. Working quickly, over now or very low heat, mash your potatoes lightly, then add hot cream, and mash until mostly smooth. Now then add half your green onions and half your warm brown butter and mash again. At this point, your potoos should be well-mashed and creamy. Now fold in the cooked cabbage and leeks with a spatula – being careful not to over-mix. Move Colcannon to a serving dish, if desired, smoothing with a spoon to make deep divots for pools of butter.
Last, add your remaining green onions to the remaining warm brown butter, being careful as they may splatter if your butter is very hot. Finish the dish with remaining brown butter and scallions and serve immediately.
Brown Butter Colcannon holds for about four days in the fridge. Due to the high water content of the cabbage, this does not freeze well.
Cooking in her home kitchen just outside Ottawa, Canada; Cori Horton is a food photographer and recipe blogger. A Cordon Bleu-trained Chef, Cori spent five years as the owner of Nova Scotia's Dragonfly Inn and has been sharing all things delicious - right here - since 2010.