I do not pretend that this is an authentic Irish recipe. It is more of a California Fusion revamp of the original. I doubt that chicken broth or garlic were readily available in a traditional humble Irish cottage. That being said, there is no reason not to make it as traditional as possible.
One of the difficulties in making this traditional Irish dish is the unavailability of authentic Irish Lumper potatoes. While one farmer is bringing them back, it is still as rare as hen’s teeth to see Irish potatoes in stores. The question remains: Which potato should replace the original in a colcannon?
This answer to this question depends entirely on the texture you think colcannon should have. I have seen cooks, even Irish cooks, who make colcannon as mashed potatoes with the cabbage and onions stirred in. These cooks prefer the starchy Russet potato, which makes for a fluffy, smooth, mashed potato.
The original Irish Lumper, though, is a waxy, yellow, and lumpy potato. While these would be good for boiling or roasting potatoes, having less starch, these would not make creamy mashed potatoes. I suspect that the original recipe would have called for smashed potatoes—not just boiled, not mashed either, but something in between.
In the last colcannon recipe I posted, I used mature Yukon Gold potatoes to replace the Lumpers. I smashed them against the side of the pot with a spoon before stirring in the cabbage and onions. This produced a chunky textured colcannon that was good, but just a little grainy.
As I was preparing for my St. Patrick’s Day meal this year, I was still unable to find Irish Lumpers. What I did find were potatoes called “creamers.” Gold creamers are small, tender, lightly yellow, and with a thin skin. They are actually immature Yukon Golds. When I smashed them against the side of the pot, my colcannon came out both chunky and smooth. This was just the texture I had been trying to achieve.
Karl’s Colcannon II
1½ lb. small gold creamers
14.5 oz. chicken broth
3+ Tbs. butter, separate uses (as much as your diet will allow)
½ medium yellow onion, diced fine
½ head of cabbage, shredded fine
4-5 cloves garlic, pressed
1 bunch green onion, sliced fine, green tops reserved
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Pare and halve the potatoes. Do not remove the skin.
2. Boil potatoes in chicken stock until tender, about 15 minutes.
3. Just before potatoes are ready, sauté the yellow onion in two pats of butter in a large skillet until translucent.
4. When the onions are soft, about 5 minutes, add the shredded cabbage and continue sautéing, about 5 minutes.
Tip: To speed things along you can add one tablespoon of water and cover the pan for two minutes. The water will steam and wilt the cabbage and make easier to sauté without tossing bits all over the stove.
5. Make a hole in the cabbage and onions, by pulling the vegetables to the edges of the skillet. Put a pat of butter in the open space and when it has melted add the white parts of green onion and the pressed garlic. Continue sautéing for 2 more minutes.
6. Drain the remaining chicken stock from potatoes into the skillet with the vegetables and cook for a few minutes more.
Tip: Put the lid on the potato pot to keep them warm.
7. Add salt and pepper to taste to the cabbage and onions.
8. Smash the potatoes with a spoon or potato masher.
Tip: You do not want smooth mashed potatoes or large chunks, but something in between.
8. When the chicken broth has reduced enough, pour the vegetables into the smashed potatoes.
Tip: You do not want your colcannon to be either too soupy or too dry.
9. Add the most of the green onion tops and more butter to taste and mix well.
Tip: Do not over mix the potatoes or they will turn “glue-y.”
10. Transfer the colcannon to a serving bowl and make a small “well” in the top. Add some more butter to the “well” and garnish with the rest of the green onion tops.
Tip: The butter will melt into a pool filling the “well.” The Irish cooks list this as a very important feature of traditional colcannon.