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Thursday, March 10, 2016 12:01 am

A dish to make the Irish smile

Cauliflower and potato mash with parmesan.
PHOTO COURTESY ASHLEY MEYER

 

 

“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?

Yes you did, so you did, so did he and so did I.
And the more I think about it sure the nearer I’m to cry.
Oh, wasn’t it the happy days when troubles we had not,
And our mothers made Colcannon in the little skillet pot.”

–Traditional Irish Folk Song

I thought I was very clever. At some point in my early 20s I figured out that I could dump a container of baby spinach into a batch of freshly steamed potatoes, add some yogurt and butter, mash the whole thing up, and voila! I had a fast, nutrient-dense side dish that doubled as a green veggie and starch. With the addition of some milk, leftovers became spinach potato soup for another night’s dinner.

I remember calling my mom and excitedly boasting of my brainchild.

“Yeah, the Belgians call it stoemp. In Germany it’s called seeskraut, in the Netherlands they make a dish called stamppot. And in Ireland they call it Colcannon.”

So…maybe not as novel as I had originally thought, but still definitely one of my favorites. And really, what could be better for St. Patrick’s Day dinner than a steaming bowl of fluffy, bright green potatoes, topped with a golden pat of melting butter?

I’m not one for hiding vegetables in foods. That said, I do try to squeeze them into every nook and cranny of my my family’s diet that I possibly can. Ideally half of one’s diet should be comprised of vegetables, preferably dark green, red and orange varieties. That, however, is often easier said than done, especially when trying to keep dishes, time and cost to a minimum.

Enter vegetable potato mashes. The possibilities extend beyond the traditional (and delicious!) Irish Colcannon recipe of mashed potatoes mixed with sautéed cabbage and leeks. “Red Flannel Hash,” mashed potatoes and beets, was a favorite childhood dish of my grandmother’s. In fact, any vegetable that boils or steams well would make a good candidate: cauliflower, turnips, rutabagas, kale, carrots, parsnips and peas – just a few of the rainbow of variations. Add cheese, garlic and/or herbs, and the possibilities for this simple, wholesome and delicious dish are nearly infinite.

Irish Colcannon
• 2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into large cubes
• ½ head cabbage, shredded thin
• 1 leek, sliced and thoroughly washed to remove grit
• ¼ cup butter, plus more for serving
• 1 cup cream or milk
• salt and pepper to taste
• chopped flat leaf parsley for garnish

Steam potatoes until tender. While potatoes are steaming, sauté cabbage and leeks in butter over medium heat until very soft and slightly browned. Stir often and add small amounts of water if necessary to prevent the mixture from becoming too brown.

When potatoes are tender enough to pierce easily with a fork, remove from steamer and add to the cabbage mixture. Add cream and mash, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. Serve steaming hot with a generous pat of butter on top, and sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Cauliflower and Potato Mash with Parmesan
• 1 head cauliflower, core removed, stems and florets chopped into small pieces
• 2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into large cubes
• 3 cloves garlic, peeled
• ¼ cup butter
• ½ cup cream cheese
• ½ cup milk
• ½ cup grated parmesan (optional) salt and pepper

Combine cauliflower, potaotes and garlic in a steamer set over boiling water. Steam until very tender. Remove from steamer and transfer to a bowl for mashing. Add butter, cream cheese, milk and parmesan and mash together. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add more milk as necessary to achieve desired consistency.

This recipe can be used as a base recipe for other vegetable potato mashes. Substitute turnips, rutabagas, kale, carrots, parsnips, beets or peas for the cauliflower. Some vegetables, such as beets, rutabagas and parsnips, will need to be steamed longer than the potatoes, and so should be given a 15-minute head start. Other vegetables like spinach and peas will only need to be steamed briefly and should be added to the potatoes in the steamer at the last minute.  

Ashley Meyer is the executive chef and Eat Real Educator at genHkids. A lifelong vegetable lover, Ashley is a daughter of the late Julianne Glatz who wrote this food column for the past 10 years. Ashley lives in Springfield with her husband and three-year-old daughter.

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