Friday, January 25, 2008

Winter Eats: Colcannon

Monday night was cold and blustery--luckily, I'd just been to Saraga, where I procured, among other things, a bag of potatoes and a bundle of kale. Earlier in the day, I'd been perusing a cookbook at my girlfriend's house and jotted down the recipe for a traditional Irish dish, colcannon, the hearty, hairy uncle of bubble 'n squeak (which, unfortunately, I've never tried at my Irish pub of choice--Louisville's Irish Rover).

Whereas bubble 'n squeak is the high-voiced little cousin who'll never stop bothering you to play foosball in the moldy basement, colcannon looked to be every bit the hale, stocky uncle, glasses in the breast pocket of his flannel shirt, who slaps you on the back every time he tells a joke. And admittedly, his material doesn't change much from year-to-year, but that's just part of the charm. Much like colcannon, in fact, whose main ingredients remain much the same, generation after generation. In this case...also not a bad thing. The recipe follows:

2 lbs potatoes (cut into even pieces)
8 oz. curly kale or green cabbage (shredded)
2 scallions (chopped) [I used a small yellow onion and it worked beautifully.]
Butter (to taste)
Nutmeg, Salt, Pepper (to taste)
4 eggs
3 oz. aged cheese (grated)

Boil potatoes (water level should just cover the 'taters; till tender), drain, and mash well (with a bit of milk and butter). [I suppose you could use instant, if you can justify using instant potatoes in a dish with a name like "Colcannon". I mean, c'mon, potatoes are the dish. Man up and get peelin'.]

Lightly cook kale until tender but crisp (a bit of olive oil will help with this). Heat oven to 375°. Drain the kale, and mix with the potatoes, onions, butter (I used 2 tbsp.), nutmeg (a healthy amount, 2 or 3 tsp.), and salt and pepper.

Spoon into a lightly buttered dish, and make four hollows with the back of a spoon. Crack an egg into each hollow, and season accordingly. Bake 12 min. (eggs will be a bit runny; if you want them set, leave it in for 20 or so).

Serve with grated cheese (and if you're feeling decadent, some crumbled bacon or sausage makes it ideal).

This was pretty much perfect, and with minimal effort on my part, even looked rather presentable (for what it is; forest-green kale, golden mashed potatoes, four smiling eggs) in the dish. Leftover it was magnificent for breakfast or lunch, and I strongly suspect it would serve as a healthy cure or base for a bender.

Next time: An extended look at the perenially underrated Stones' record Goat's Head Soup, for better or for worse, always known as "the record after Exile."

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