Like many Americans, I have a little Irish blood in me. My grandmother's maiden name was O'Shea, and I vaguely remember her cooking corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick's Day. I also recall hearing that my ancestors had emigrated from Ireland when the potato famine hit in the mid-1800's. About a million people died in Ireland because of the famine, but thousands of others left the country in order to survive. When they immigrated to America, they brought with them recipes for such traditional foods as Irish stew, Shepherd's Pie, Mulligatawny soup, and Colcannon.
Colcannon is a mixture of cabbage or kale, potatoes, leeks and butter. It was originally on the menu for Halloween as small coins were hidden in the dish for lucky children to discover. The popularity of colcannon spread and it's now served year-round. St. Patrick's Day seems like as good a time as any to try your hand at this Irish dish. To make colcannon, boil 1 lb. cabbage until tender; then remove and chop or blend well. Set it aside and keep it warm while you boil 1 lb. potatoes. Remove potatoes from heat and drain. Chop 2 leeks (green parts as well as white), and simmer them in just enough milk to cover, until they are soft. Season and mash the potatoes. Stir in cooked leeks and milk. Blend in the cabbage and heat thoroughly. Make a well in the center and pour in 1/2 cup melted butter. Mix well and serve. Here's the link to the recipe.
While you cook up your Colcannon, you might want to sing this traditional Irish song called "The 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?
The chorus goes:
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.
Yesterday when I was at Findlay Market passing out recipes for Colannon, I ran into a genuine Irishman and his family. (Must have been the luck of the Irish!) It was fun chatting about the recipe and hearing their plans for St. Patrick's Day. Discovering new recipes and meeting new people---two more good reasons to shop at Findlay Market?