So I have this really great brother named Jeff.  Like many of us, he loves a good party, and none more than when that party has lots of family in attendance, and has enough food to feed a small nation.  Given my affinity for the same darned things, you can understand why I think he’s pretty cool.

Jeff's Birthday

While all parties of any fashion are anticipated with bated breath, he really, really loves St. Patrick’s Day.  Now let me say that our side of the family is German.  We’re not just a little German with a bunch of other stuff tossed in there.  We’re like 95% German.  I think there is some English in there somewhere, but it is drowned out by the beer-drinking, loud-personalities of the German ancestors.

My aunt, however, married into a very Irish family.  As a result, that side of the family celebrates not only Oktoberfest each year (I mean, lederhosen, beer steins, bratwurst and all), but also throws themselves into their Irish heritage with style.  And because we are family, after all, we’ve always been welcome at these rowdy gatherings of green beer, Irish song-singing (Danny Boy being the most sung), and again lots of eating.

One of the dishes ALWAYS served alongside the corned beef and beer is Colcannon.  My brother always begs my one particular cousin to make it (yes, that’s you Karla!), and no St. Patrick’s Day gathering is complete without it.  Now, for you non-Irish and non-Irish-family-having folk, this dish is generally pretty basic.  Potatoes, cabbage, butter, and BAM–you’re doing a jig with your plate o’plenty.  Colcannon for everyone!

Colcannon with Kale

However, being that I am NOT of actual Irish descent, I have to admit that this is the one manner in which you can put me off of mashed potatoes.  No, seriously.  My confession is this: I don’t like cabbage.  <gasp> I know, I know, even as a German I’m walking a fine line with that statement.

But thankfully, people across the centuries (apparently the dish dates back to the mid-1700s) have at times used other items in place of green cabbage.  In this case, kale.  I figure it’s greener than green cabbage, so it seems more fitting to be found in an Irish dish, right?

And because I AM German, and we like our pork, I decided to get a nod in there to my heritage too by using bacon.  Who’s going to say no to that, right?

I don’t know if my brother would approve of my version of Colcannon, as anything green makes him turn up his nose.  But the bacon may get his blessing.  An Irish blessing, at that!

Kale Colcannon
Colcannon With Kale
Print Recipe
In doing some looking at various recipes, there seem to be some basic rules for traditional Colcannon--potatoes, butter, and either cabbage or kale. Even though I decided to break the rules a bit and add bacon, I think most Irishmen I know would approve! Any time of year, this hearty dish would be considered good luck for anyone around the table!
Servings Prep Time
8 people 15 minutes
Cook Time
30 minutes
Servings Prep Time
8 people 15 minutes
Cook Time
30 minutes
Kale Colcannon
Colcannon With Kale
Print Recipe
In doing some looking at various recipes, there seem to be some basic rules for traditional Colcannon--potatoes, butter, and either cabbage or kale. Even though I decided to break the rules a bit and add bacon, I think most Irishmen I know would approve! Any time of year, this hearty dish would be considered good luck for anyone around the table!
Servings Prep Time
8 people 15 minutes
Cook Time
30 minutes
Servings Prep Time
8 people 15 minutes
Cook Time
30 minutes
Instructions
  1. Peel the potatoes, and dice them into same-sized chunks (about 1-2" cubes). Slice the leeks and rinse them well as they will likely have a lot of sand in them.
    Colcannon with Kale Ingredients
  2. Place the potatoes in a large pot, and cover with water. Add two bay leaves. Bring to a boil, and then lower heat to an active simmer, cooking for approximately 20 minutes or until the potatoes can be easily pierced with a fork. Drain well.
    Bay Leaves for Colcannon Potatoes
  3. While the potatoes cook, cook bacon until just crisp. Remove from skillet and drain any fat from the pan.
    Bacon for Colcannon
  4. In the same pan, saute the leeks until tender and beginning to brown, about 7 minutes.
    Leeks and Bacon for Colcannon
  5. Add kale to skillet, and cook until kale is cooked through and begins to lightly crisp on the edges. Set the leek and kale mixture aside.
    Kale for Colcannon
  6. Add milk, butter, salt & pepper to potatoes. Using a hand mixer, mash the ingredients until creamy.
    Butter & Milk for Colcannon Potatoes
  7. Add kale & leek mixture, as well as 3/4 of the bacon. Gently fold ingredients into potatoes until incorporated.
    Bacon & Kale for Colcannon
  8. Serve immediately topped with additional bacon.
    Kale Colcannon
Recipe Notes

What I love about these peasant dishes like Colcannon is that, because they were born of what was on hand, variation was the mother of necessity in terms of using what you had.  And I would assume that the variation of kale vs. cabbage came about in this way.  Of course, no one knows that for sure, but I think no matter which way you prepare it, you'll have happy people digging into this hearty and delicious dish.

For those purists out there, have no fear.  I've included below the original recipe used by my family, and demanded by my brother each year.

Traditional Irish Colcannon:

  • 4 lbs. white potatoes
  • 1 tsp. salt, divided
  • 3 cups finely sliced green cabbage
  • 3 tbsp. minced onions
  • 3 tbsp. butter, divided
  • 1/8 tsp. white pepper
  • 2 tbsp. milk
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Peel & quarter the potatoes.  Place them in a saucepan, and cover with water by 1 inch.  Cover and cook 15-20 minutes or until potatoes are tender.  Drain and mash them.
  3. Meanwhile, cook cabbage in 1 inch of water until tender.  Add 1/2 tsp. salt to the water.
  4. Saute onions in 1 1/2 tbsp. of the butter until soft.
  5. Combine onions with potatoes, drained cabbage, pepper & milk. Beat until smooth
  6. Pour potato & cabbage mixture into cooking spray-coated dish, and dot with remaining butter.  Bake 15 minutes; serve immediately.

Happy St. Patrick's Day from me, and from Jeff!

Jeff St Pattys Day

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