Sunday, March 11, 2012

Colcannon--An Irish Tradition

Growing up in Virginia meant celebrating St. Patrick's day with the "wearing of the green" if one had an article of clothing that was green.  As far as I know,  there was no dying of anything green, no parades and the markets were not filled with corned beef and cabbages.  I was quite surprised to find that St. Patrick's day celebrations were started in pre-revolutionary war America by Irish Protestant immigrants.  They wanted to celebrate their heritage and introduce others to their customs.  Obviously they had great success!

Chicago goes all out for St. Paddy's Day!  There is a parade held on the Saturday before St. Patrick's Day.  This year, the 17th is on a Saturday.  The city will be a sea of green!  Maybe I should say a "river of green" since the Chicago River will be dyed green this coming week.  That tradition was started in 1962 when green dye was used to check for sewer discharges.  There was an "aha" moment when the workers had a vision of the entire river flowing green.  It is quite a spectacle from the bridges.

In my search for our St. Patrick's Day menu, I came across a recipe that hasn't been on our table in awhile.  It has long been a dish served from Irish kitchens.  I came across this little ditty that I'm sure Irish cooks hum when preparing colcannon.

The Little Skillet Pot

"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."

The dish is usually prepared with cabbage as the green.  I found some nice Brussels sprouts in the market and decided to use them.

In full disclosure, that is not a shamrock decorating the dish.


2 pounds of russet potatoes, peeled and cut into large pieces
2 cups Brussels sprouts, cut in half,  steamed until al dente and then sliced
2 green onions, minced
6 Tbsp butter, cut into pieces
1 cup of whole milk, hot
Salt and pepper to taste

1.  Cover the potatoes with water, add salt and bring to a boil, cover the pan and reduce the heat to a simmer.  Check for doneness after about 15 minutes.  When done, drain most of the water away and mash.
2.  To the still hot potatoes, immediately add the minced green onions and stir in.  Add the butter and the hot milk and stir occasionally as the butter melts.
3.  Stir in the Brussels sprouts.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.