This is more of a California Fusion revamp of the original, rather than a traditional colcannon. Potatoes are the staple of the traditional Irish diet and colcannon was, most likely, mostly potatoes with a little bit of vegetable added in—usually cabbage. Jan is always pushing me to add more high fiber vegetables and to cut back on the simple starches—i.e. potatoes—so mine is now about a 50/50 ratio of potato to veg. I also doubt that chicken broth or garlic were readily available in a humble traditional Irish cottage.
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 make for a fluffy, smooth, mashed potato.
The original Irish Lumper, though, is a white, waxy, and lumpy potato (hence the name). While these would be good for boiling or roasting potatoes, having less starch, they 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.
The last time I made this dish using immature Yukon Golds, “creamers,” as the closest substitute. I have not been able to find those this year, so I am using Dutch Golds—which are small, tender, lightly yellow potatoes with a thin skin. When I smashed them against the side of the pot, my colcannon came out both chunky and smooth.
Karl’s Colcannon III
1½ lb. small Dutch Gold potatoes
14.5 oz. chicken broth (vegetable broth for vegetarian)
3+ Tbs. butter, separate uses (as much as your diet will allow)
½ yellow onion, diced finely
1 leeks, white parts only, halves and sliced finely
½ head of cabbage, shredded fine
Bunch green onion, sliced finely, green tops kept separately
4-5 cloves garlic, pressed to a paste
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Pare and halve the potatoes.
Tip: Do not remove the potato skins.
2. Boil potatoes in chicken broth until tender, about 15 minutes.
3. Just before potatoes are ready, sauté the onion in the butter in a large skillet until translucent.
4. When the onions are soft, about 5 minutes, add the leeks and cabbage to the pan.
5. Continue sautéing, about 5 minutes.
Tip: To speed things along you can add one tablespoon of water or broth from the potato pot 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.
6. Make a hole in the cabbage and onions, by pulling the vegetables to the edges of the skillet.
7. 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.
8. Continue sautéing for 4-5 more minutes.
9. Drain the remaining chicken stock from potatoes into a small pot and reduce the volume by half.
Tip: Put the lid on the potato pot to keep them warm.
10. Add salt and pepper to taste to the vegetables.
11. Smash the potatoes in the pot with a spoon or potato masher.
Tip: You do not want smooth mashed potatoes or super large chunks, but something in between.
12. 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.
13. Add the most of the green onion tops, more butter to taste and enough of the chicken broth to give your potatoes the desired consistency—not too wet or too dry.
14. Fold the vegetables into the potatoes well.
Tip: Do not over mix the potatoes or they will turn “glue-y.”
15. Transfer the colcannon to a serving bowl and garnish with the rest of the green onion tops.
16. (Optional) Make a small “well” in the top of the colcannon and add some more butter to the “well.”
Tip: The butter will melt into a pool filling the “well.” The Irish cooks list this as a very important feature of traditional colcannon.