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Real Irish Comfort Food

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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.


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  • Pete999 | 03/15/2011

    I make this a few times a year, and always on/near St. Patrick's Day. However, (A) I don't peel the spuds (I do quarter them); (B) I BOIL them - I doubt they had steamers in old Ireland; (C)I use cabbage - the coarser outside leaves, cut in shreds; while I like the taste of kale, I find the texture doesn't work as well; (D) I cook them together - I boil the potatoes for about 20-30 minutes (test them with a skewer), and put the cabbage in for the last 15-20 minutes.

    I do the rest the same as in the recipe... I especially like simmering the green onions with butter and milk. As they say over there, "Lashings of butter".

    I shall have to try this with some other greens... the farmers' markets sometimes have cauliflower with all the leaves attached. And shredded brussels sprouts sounds divine, if a bit hoity-toity for a "cottage" dish.

  • SeamusBreathnach | 03/11/2010

    This is usually made with kale.

  • hipdeepinbooks | 03/11/2010

    It sounds like something I ate as a child when we lived in Holland. I remember it being rather bland, so maybe this version is better because of the nutmeg...I'm going to give it a try.

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