A few years ago, I was making colcannon, that Irish comfort-food dish of mashed potatoes and cabbage. My recipe came straight from an Irish cook, so I was mystified when it called for “bolted cabbage greens.” What the heck are those? My gardening pals had an answer: they’re the darker green leaves that “bolt” off the main stalk as the plant matures. In other words, they’re not on the head of cabbage you get at the grocery store. Bereft of bolted greens, I substituted kale.
My last CSA share included some exceptionally leafy heads of broccoli. Real bolted greens! It seemed a shame to throw away all those leaves, and anyway, I had a great destination in mind. I coarsely chopped them up, and braised them in butter and water, along with a half head of shredded green cabbage. Meanwhile, I boiled 3 pounds of Yukon gold potatoes and mashed them with a little hot milk and plenty of butter (you might argue it’s the butter, rather than the cabbage and potatoes, that makes this dish truly Irish). When the greens were tender, I folded them gently into the mashed potatoes and seasoned with salt and pepper. The broccoli greens add streaks of beautiful color, a little extra texture, and a delicate echo of the cabbage’s nutty flavor.