Like most Americans, we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a “traditional” meal. I even have Irish ancestry. For us, the celebration centers around the evening meal, and there’s not a drop of green beer in sight.
I say “traditional,” because my family tradition was corned beef and cabbage.
Some years ago, I read a comment somewhere that this could hardly be a real Irish dish. The writer pointed out that very few Irish families could afford a big hunk of beef. About that same time, we found a recipe for colcannon.
Colcannon is basically mashed potatoes, cabbage, and onions or scallions. We might have followed the recipe once. As the source pointed out, there are many different versions. Recently, Aly and I came up with our own, extremely simple method:
1 head of cabbage, sliced or chopped
1 medium onion, or several scallions, chopped
8 medium potatoes, scrubbed, cut to roughly uniform size
Put in a steamer and steam until soft. Serve with butter and salt, if desired.
That’s really all there is to it! We have a large pot with a steaming “cage” that we got from the local second hand store, that will whip up colcannon in no time on the propane stove or the wood stove. It’ll make enough for several meals.
We also find that the leftovers are highly versatile—we have added them to soups, meat pies, and many other dishes.
We grow a lot of fingerling potatoes in our garden, especially two closely-related local Native varieties, Marias (Tlingit) and Kasaans (Haida). They’re at their best steamed, and make great colcannon. We used the last of our garden’s cabbages in a couple batches last month. For tonight’s holiday meal, we’ll be using purple cabbage, since that was what we found at the grocers (Saints preserve us!). That’ll be different.
Our source, Betty Crocker’s International Cookbook (ask your local independent bookstore) says that colcannon is a favorite meal in Irish homes at Halloween. We actually started eating it at that time of year, but it has replaced corn beef and cabbage in our home on St. Patrick’s Day.