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Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012 02:55 am

Colcannon/Seeskraut

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The ISA’s 6th annual Harvest Celebration will be at the Inn at 835 in Springfield 5-9p.m. Sept 16. Space is limited. It’s advisable to get tickets as soon as possible. Tickets are $65 for members of ISA and $75 for non-ISA members. Call Dee at 217-528-1563 for tickets and/or more information.

Colcannon/Seeskraut
I hadn’t expected Dirks’ book to contain recipes. But it did, although they’re not the book’s focal point. Some are historical oddities that, seen in today’s light, almost no one could – or would – make. Others are even more odd (at least to me), with their post-WWII mindset of putting together a can of this and a box mix of that and calling it a gourmet creation.

But others, such as the delectable Irish classic, colcannon, are reflections of the impact of immigrants as waves of different nationalities came to McLean County, and assimilated their culinary traditions into the area.

My grandmother, of German and a touch of Irish ancestry, made her own version of colcannon. But Nana called it seeskraut. She didn’t have an exact recipe, and I’m not even sure that’s how she spelled it, or if she’d ever needed to spell it. Regardless, I loved seeskraut; the combination of cabbage, onion (which she used instead of leeks) and creamy potatoes was ultimate comfort food.

I’ve modified my recipe somewhat from the one in Come and Get It! It calls for discarding the water in which the cabbage is cooked, then using fresh water to cook the potatoes. My grandmother, as she did with many of her vegetable dishes, used cabbage and potato cooking water to make the sauce, which provided additional flavoring and nutrition. But I doubt that was the reason she’d learned the technique from her mother; it’s more likely that thriftiness was the issue. Nana’s “seeskraut” is a bit looser than most colcannon recipes: It’s not soupy thin, but has a velvety unctuousness less dense than mashed potatoes.

•    1 medium cabbage, quartered and cored
•    1 tsp. salt
•    3 large red wax potatoes, scrubbed, peeled if desired, and sliced.
•    2 medium leeks, white parts only, sliced
•    8 T. unsalted butter
•    2 T. all-purpose flour
•    1 c. milk, at room temperature
•    1/2  tsp. mace
•    Salt and pepper to taste

Put the cabbage in a large pot, and add the salt and water to cover. Bring the cabbage to a boil over medium high heat. Let it gently boil until the cabbage is completely tender, about 10-12 minutes.

Remove the cabbage from the pot with a slotted spoon. Do not turn off the heat under the pan. When it is cool enough to handle, chop it into bite-size pieces or shreds and set aside.

Add the potatoes to the still boiling water and cook until they’re completely tender, about 10 minutes. Remove them with a slotted spoon to a large bowl, and mash them, using a few spoonfuls of the cooking liquid as necessary. Set aside. Let the cooking water continue to boil until it is reduced by about half, then pour into a pan and reserve.

Separate the sliced leeks into rings and wash to remove any sand. Return the pot to the stove over medium heat. Add the butter and when it’s melted, add the cleaned leeks and stir to coat them with the butter. Cook until the leeks are tender, 5-10 minutes.

Add the flour to the pot, and stir to mix so that no flour lumps remain. Cook for a couple of minutes, then pour in the milk and a half cup of the cooking liquid. Simmer the mixture, stirring frequently, until it is smooth and thickened.

Add the reserved cabbage and mashed potatoes to the pot, whisking so the potatoes dissolve into the mixture with no lumps. Add as much of the cooking water as needed to make it looser than mashed potatoes, but not soupy. Add the mace and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm.

Makes approximately 6 servings. 

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