Colcannon and Irish Bacon


Colcannon and Irish Bacon

If our nation’s roster of shitty faux-Irish sports bars are any indicator, the native food of the Emerald Isle consists mainly of potato skins, lukewarm quesadillas, and various iterations of brown-colored stuff straight out of the fryer. And really, if stale green beer and Jameson shots in plastic cups is the extent to which you enjoy Irish culture on St. Patrick’s Day, then garbage food it up. But if you want something they eat in Ireland, then let’s put these potatoes to authentic use.

Colcannon is classic Irish comfort food made with kale, cabbage, and/or spring onions stirred into mashed potatoes and flavored with butter, cream, herbs, and onions, leeks, or chives. Also, our ancestors used to hide coins and/or rings in it, because 19th century European dentistry wasn’t challenging enough. It’s also associated with the Druids, because it was traditionally served on Halloween, which makes it somewhat metal. There is also a folk song about it, because Ireland.

Finding Irish rasher bacon – basically a cured pork loin chop – can be tricky. But for you Chicago readers, Spencer’s Jolly Posh Foods on Irving Park and Southport makes and packages their own, and it’s really good.

This makes 4 side servings or 2 large drunk people servings.

The Setup

1 large bunch kale, washed and center stalks removed
3 tbsp butter, separated
1 shallot, minced
1/2 leek, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups heavy cream
3 medium potatoes, peeled
1 cup chicken stock
4 slices Irish bacon
1 tbsp olive oil
Kosher salt
Fresh-ground black pepper

Kale

Cooking

1. Bring a large salted pot of water to a boil and blanch the kale for 90 seconds. Remove to a colander and shock with cold running water to preserve the bright green color.

2. Bring the water back to a boil and add potatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a heavy simmer, and let cook 15-20 minutes, until a knife easily pierces through.

3. While the potatoes cook, place a cast iron pan over low or medium-low heat and add the olive oil. When the oil heats, add the bacon and let cook slowly, turning frequently.

4. Heat 1 tbsp butter in a skillet over medium heat and add the shallot and leek. Cook 5 minutes, until soft. Add the garlic and cook another minute.

5. Slice drained kale into 1/2″ strips and add to the skillet. Add 1 cup of the cream and bring to a simmer. Let simmer 5 minutes, until slightly reduced. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

6. When potatoes finish, pass through a ricer and beat in the remaining 2 tbsp butter and the chicken stock 1/4 cup at a time until smooth.

7. Place the kale mixture into a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Fold into mashed potatoes and taste for seasoning.

8. Remove the rendered bacon from the cast iron pan and cut into strips. Stir into the potatoes and serve with a pint of stout.

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