How To Make Colcannon (Irish Potatoes and Cabbage)

How To Make Colcannon (Irish Potatoes and Cabbage)

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Meghan Splawn
Mar 10, 2017
(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

With its sublime mixture of creamy mashed potatoes and tender cabbage, this recipe for the Irish dish of colcannon requires a declaration of love. That's how good it is.

Keeping with tradition, we didn't mess with the potatoes or cabbage, but swapped the plain melted butter that is typically served in a pool on top for fragrant browned butter. We just couldn't help ourselves! The nutty browned butter is a wonderful warm contrast to the sharp green onions that get scattered before serving, giving this dish an easy, elegant twist.

Both decadent and homey, colcannon is the perfect partner for sausages and a pint of beer. It's also just as good at the family dinner table as a side for roasted meat or bed for your Saturday fried eggs.

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

What Is Colcannon?

Colcannon is an Irish dish made from potatoes and greens. Kale or cabbage are most often used in partnership with green onions or leeks. The Irish often serve colcannon at Halloween, hiding a thimble, a ring, and small prizes inside. There's also a song based on the dish. There really isn't one way to make colcannon, so it comes as no surprise there's a saying that there are as many versions of colcannon as there are Irishmen.

Keeping with tradition in the staple ingredients, we updated this classic for an extra boost of flavor and bit of streamlined cooking. By utilizing both the white and green parts of green onions, we add flavor and cut down on ingredient costs. Browning the butter traditionally served atop the finished colcannon also sets this version apart. The brown butter glazes the cabbage as it cooks and then dresses the whole dish like a sauce with very little extra effort from the cook.

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Making Colcannon

Colcannon is a pretty straightforward dish, but we have a few extra tips and tricks to make it the best. Consider the browned butter just the beginning of how to make the dish a standout.

Use two types of potatoes.

Like most mashed potato recipes, cook cubed potatoes in heavily salted water until tender. A combination of russet and red potatoes makes this mash hearty without becoming too heavy. I suggest leaving the skins on the red potatoes for more texture, but feel free to peel them if you prefer. Once the potatoes are fork-tender, mash them with milk.

Cook the cabbage in the same pan you used for brown butter.

Browned butter is a simple, elegant upgrade to regular ol' butter. It's really gilding a lily here, but this step elevates this colcannon from an everyday dish to something extraordinary. Use a skillet that will be large enough to hold the cabbage later, but has a light-colored bottom so you can keep an eye on the butter as it browns. Once browned, remove the butter to a heat-safe bowl, but don't bother wiping out the skillet. Any residual butter will be used to cook the cabbage.

Learn how: How To Brown Butter

Use savoy cabbage for tender texture.

Use savoy cabbage for tenderness and texture. Its deeper green also makes the dish more colorful. You can also use kale or other hearty greens the same way. Deglaze the pan with a little chicken broth (or water) to capture all the lovely brown bits left from browning the butter.

Put it all together.

To finish the colcannon, simply fold the cooked cabbage into the mashed potatoes before transferring to a serving dish. Sprinkle with the remaining green onions and make a well in the middle for the browned butter. For a long time, I thought this odd garnish was a design of food stylists, but it is actually taken from a line in the traditional Irish song "Colcannon."

Did you ever eat Colcannon, made from lovely pickled cream?
With the greens and scallions mingled like a picture in a dream.
Did you ever make a hole on top to hold the melting flake
Of the creamy, flavoured butter that your mother used to make?

Serve your colcannon with corned beef or boiled ham if you like, or try it with grilled sausages or with a fried egg on top. You can turn the leftovers into hash or a skillet potato pancake, sort of like a very Irish Bubble and Squeak.

How To Make Colcannon (Irish Potatoes and Cabbage)

Makes 4 to 6 servings

What You Need

Ingredients
1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1 pound red potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1 tablespoon kosher salt, divided
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small head savoy cabbage (about 1 pound), cored and shredded
4 medium scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced and separated
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth

Equipment
Measuring cups and spoons
Chef's knife
Cutting board
Peeler
4-quart pot with lid
10- to 12-inch skillet
Potato masher
Tongs
Spatula
Small heatproof bowl
Large serving dish

Instructions

  1. Boil the potatoes: Place the potatoes and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt in a medium pot and cover with cool water. Bring to a simmer over high heat; this will take about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Meanwhile, brown the butter.
  2. Brown the butter: While the potatoes are cooking, melt the butter in a 12-inch skillet (preferable something with a lightly colored interior) over medium-high heat. Bring the butter to a simmer and cook until it browns and smells nutty, about 7 minutes. Pour off 1/4 cup of the browned butter and set aside.
  3. Cook the cabbage: Return the pan with the remaining browned butter to medium heat and add the cabbage and the whites of the scallions. The pan will be quite full, but the cabbage will wilt, making stirring easier. Season with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper. Cook until tender and lightly browned, about 8 minutes.
  4. Mash the potatoes: Drain the potatoes and return them to the cooking pot. Add the milk and mash with a potato masher. The potatoes should retain a few small lumps for texture.
  5. Deglaze the cabbage pan: Add the chicken broth to the cabbage pan and scrape vigorously to remove any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook until the broth has reduced, about 3 minutes more.
  6. Putting it all together: Add the warm cabbage and greens of the scallions to the mashed potatoes and fold to combine. Move the colcannon to a large serving bowl and make a well in the middle of the potatoes. Pour the reserved 1/4 cup brown butter into the well and serve immediately.
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