Thursday, March 17, 2011

0 Recipe #251: Celebrate St. Paddy's Day with Colcannon

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Wanna get your kids to eat their greens? Then try this recipe. :) It's so tasty, they won't even
 notice you're serving them something healthy. :-D

In honor of St. Paddy's Day, I'd like to post another Irish recipe, colcannon. Yesterday, I took on sherpherd's pie for all of you meat-lovers out there, and so today I've added a vegetable-centric dish, which'll hopefully make the vegetarians happy. :) Both of these recipes feature simple, modest, and readily available ingredients, including -- you guessed it -- the potato. :)

An Irish clover.
To be certain, the Irish have mastered the art of the potato. And they know how to make the most of it
 too. They seem to have found every possible creative culinary use for it known to man. :) In Irish cuisine, there are an incredibly diverse and clever array of dishes featuring this humble vegetable. For starters, consider many of the following colorfully named, potato-based dishes: champ, bruisy, boxty, pandy, etc., and of course, last but certainly not least, colcannon. :) If your ancestors had gone through a few potato famines (like the Irish Famine of 1740-1741 and the Great Famine of 1845-1852), you and your ancestors would most likely come to appreciate them too. :) Consider that during the 1840s, one-third of the population was entirely dependent on the potato for food. Wow. So, understandably, the potato is a pretty big deal to the Irish, both historically and culturally speaking. It's been a food of sustenance and survival, but also one of comfort and creativity too.

And speaking of which, potato-based dishes -- like colcannon and sherpherd's pie -- are considered by many to be one of the ultimate comfort foods. Not coincidentally, both are highly popular, traditional choices for St. Paddy's Day. :)

Happy St. Patrick's Day, everybody!



6 c. lightly salted water (for boiling potatoes)
2 c. large russet or red-skinned potatoes (approximately 1 lb. or about 2 large potatoes), peeled and cut into large wedges
1/2 c. fresh kale, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1/2 c. fresh Swiss chard, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1/2 c. fresh baby spinach leaves
1/2 c. water (for steaming greens)
1/2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. leeks (white parts only), minced
2 Tbsp. shallots, peeled & finely minced
1/2 Tbsp. garlic, peeled & finely minced (about 1 large clove)
1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, densely packed
1 tsp. fresh rosemary leaves, densely packed & finely minced
1/2 tsp. fresh marjoram leaves, densely packed & finely minced
1 Tbsp. fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, densely packed & finely minced
1/2 cup skim milk
2 Tbsp. scallions (both white & green parts), sliced crosswise into 1/4" rounds (about 1 large scallion)
1/4 tsp. salt, or to taste
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper, or to taste
1 Tbsp. lite nondairy creamer
1-2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. fresh chives, chopped crosswise into 1/4"-thick tubes (optional)

Directions: Bring a pot of (6 c.) lightly salted water to a rolling boil in a large sauce/stock pot, about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large (12-13") nonstick sauté pan, steam kale, Swiss chard, and baby spinach in a 1/2 c. of water with the lid on until gently wilted (but still bright green), about 3 minutes. Uncover, drain into a colander, & set aside. In the same sauté pan, heat olive oil on medium heat until glistening. Then reduce heat to low and add leeks, shallots, garlic, and all fresh herbs, minus the chives. Stir frequently and cook until tender and lightly golden brown around the edges, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

By now, water should be at a rolling boil. Add potatoes to a medium-sized stock pot, & then set your kitchen timer for 20-25 minutes. Cook until tender and easily pierceable with a fork. Remove from heat. Drain water, & let them cool for 5-10 minutes. When ready, return mashed potatoes to the stock pot and mash potatoes with a potato masher until just combined but still a bit chunky. (Be careful not to overmix mashed potatoes, or else they'll become glue-like and unappetizing in terms of both taste and texture.) Return pot to the stove, stir in the milk, followed by the greens, scallions, and ingredients from the sauté pan. Season with salt and pepper, and cook on low heat for another 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in lite nondairy creamer. Transfer mashed potato mixture to a medium-sized serving bowl. Make a small well in the center of the mashed potatoes, and place the butter into the hole, so it can melt a bit. (I accomplished this using a wooden spoon, which I then rotated around around in a full circle.) Sprinkle with chives, if desired, and serve hot.

How to eat this dish: Colcannon is a communal platter. Each person is supposed to pass the dish around, taking turns dipping a forkful of mashed potatoes into the butter.

A savoy cabbage.
Yield: 2-4 servings.

Variations: If you'd rather not use butter, there are other, albeit nontraditional, options. You could also try Parmesan or low-fat, sharp cheddar cheese, or even low-fat sour cream.

Many colcannon recipes contain cabbage, although I opted not to use it in my version of this dish. However, if you'd like, you could substitute 1/2 c. savoy cabbage for a 1/2 c. of one of the leafy greens in the above recipe.

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