Colcannon is so much more than mere cabbage and potatoes. Still not convinced? Taste this version with kale and bacon and beer and get back to us. A twist on the traditional Irish dish. Excellent for St. Patrick’s Day.
Colcannon. It sounds pretty simple. Just potatoes and cabbage, yes? Not exactly. There are countless different ways to make this classic. We’re partial to this recipe, which gilds the classic potatoes and cabbage with kale and bacon and beer. We’re indebted to chef, cookbook author, and Appalachian food historian Ronni Lundy for sharing this moment of Irish-inspired, Southern-inflected colcannon magnificence with us.–Renee Schettler
Most commonly made with potatoes, butter, milk, and cabbage, colcannon is sometimes the main course but is often served as a side dish. It goes well with meaty dishes such as corned beef, salt pork, and sausage.
Colcannon is a traditional Irish dish made of potatoes with cabbage, although kale is sometimes used. Essentially, colcannon goes with whatever you’ve got on hand, including boiled ham, salt pork, or corned beef. It’s eaten year-round but St. Patrick’s Day and Halloween are traditional, as is leaving a small offering dish to the fairies before eating.
Part of the nutmeg family, mace is actually the dried, lacy coating that covers the nutmeg seed. It’s available in ground form and in solid, dried pieces called blades. It’s widely used in Asian, Caribbean, Indian, and Moroccan cuisines, and also used in British, Dutch, and French baking. Mace’s flavor is sweet, woody, and warm, with a mild pungent kick. It’s a lot like nutmeg but with a softer flavor and not quite as sweet.
Colcannon ~ Potatoes and Cabbage
- One (3/4-pound) bunch kale stemmed and chopped
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon (4 1/2 oz) unsalted butter
- 1/4 smallish head green cabbage thinly sliced
- 1 smallish yellow onion halved and thinly sliced
- 4 garlic cloves thinly sliced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/8 teaspoon ground mace
- 1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper plus more to taste
- 1/8 teaspoon ground mustard
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- 1/3 cup beer (preferably a lighter beer such as a pale ale, lager, or pilsner)
- 1/2 cup store-bought chicken broth or homemade chicken stock
- 2 pounds red-skinned potatoes quartered
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 pound bacon cooked until crisp
- Fill a large bowl halfway with ice water and place it next to the stove.
- Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the kale and return to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 3 minutes. Drain the kale and add it the ice water to stop the cooking. Drain the kale again and transfer it to paper towels to dry.
- Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the cabbage, onion, garlic, bay leaf, mace, white pepper, mustard, cayenne, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring often, until the onions are soft, about 8 minutes.
- Add the beer and cook, stirring almost constantly, until the liquid has evaporated, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken broth, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook until the liquid is reduced by about half, 5 to 8 minutes.
- Remove the bay leaf, stir in the blanched and drained kale, and remove the pot from the heat. Add salt and white pepper to taste. Cover and keep warm while preparing the potatoes.
- Cover the quartered potatoes with cold water in a large pot. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Salt the water generously, and then turn the heat down to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
- Drain the potatoes, setting the empty pot aside. Dump the potatoes in a large bowl and, using a potato masher, smash them until they begin to have a creamy consistency.
- Pour the cream into the empty potato pot, add 1/2 cup butter and a few pinches of salt, and warm over medium-low heat until the butter melts. Combine the melted butter mixture with the potatoes and continue to mash until smooth.
- Divvy the colcannon among bowls, top with the cabbage mixture, and garnish with crumbled bacon.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
Colcannon. What a warm, comforting, filling dish, perfect for fall or winter. I’ve had colcannon served many ways over the years, but the versions I’ve tried have always been comprised of the veggies mashed into the potatoes. I rather like this version and my family enjoyed the flavors as well.
This was my first time cooking with mace and I loved the warmth and the flavor it lends to cabbage and kale. I cooked my bacon in the oven on a sheet pan lined with parchment which made for easy clean-up. My family suggested serving this dish with sausage, such as bratwurst, instead of bacon, which I thought was a great idea.
I would definitely make this colcannon again and next time I might even lighten up the mashed potatoes with half the butter and milk in place of half the cream. I’m thinking this would make an easy weeknight dinner, especially if there are leftover mashed potatoes on hand. All you would have to do is cook up the cabbage, kale, and onions, add a protein, and you’re done. I used a Decheutes Pale Ale.
The one thing I really wanted to change in this recipe was to sauté the kale instead of blanch it. I lost a lot of the green and nutrients in the boiling liquid. When making this on my own I would skip the blanching step and just sauté the kale with the cabbage and onion mixture.
I don’t usually use kale when I make colcannon but I liked this recipe with it. It was delicious. I used Shipyard Lager.
Originally published March 11, 2017