When it comes to mashed potato recipes, making them colcannon style is my family’s favorite way to enjoy them. Colcannon is an Irish dish that probably came to this country in the early 1800s with the Irish immigrants who brought the flavor of their beloved homeland with them. Traditionally, it combines potatoes, butter, cream, leeks, and cabbage into one comforting dish that is equal parts potato puree and hearty cabbage.
Colcannon was strongly associated with the Halloween holiday in Ireland. There are countless legends about groups of young Irish women participating in a ritual of going to the family garden to select a cabbage to be used in the night’s colcannon. Before serving the colcannon at the family table, a small ring would be hidden inside. The young woman at the table who discovered the ring in her serving was predicted to find herself married before the next Halloween arrived.
Here at 1840 Farm, we enjoy the folklore that accompanies this dish, but prepare it time and time again for its delicious flavor. We enjoy it all year long, not wanting to relegate it to a single Halloween meal during our calendar year. I love how this recipe beautifully combines potatoes, butter, cream, leeks, and sautéed cabbage into one harmonious and delicious dish. The earthiness from the cabbage elevates the flavor of the potatoes and lends beauty and a depth of flavor to each bite.
I find that colcannon is a lovely addition to the Thanksgiving meal. It pairs deliciously with roasted turkey, gravy, and our other favorite holiday side dishes. If you don’t care for the flavor of cabbage, you can easily omit it from the recipe and produce a lovely mashed potato dish for your celebration.
As much as I love to make and enjoy mashed potatoes in our farmhouse kitchen, I receive countless messages and pleas for help from my readers who are frustrated by the process. They’ve tried so many different recipes and have yet to create the lovely, creamy mashed potatoes they’re dreaming of.
Making amazing mashed potatoes is simple once you understand the role a potato’s starch plays in the finished texture of the dish. You don’t need fancy tools or ingredients, just a few simple techniques for controlling the starch contained in the potatoes you’re working with.
First, carefully choose the type of potato you use and the method of preparing them for boiling. Yukon Golds are my preferred type of potato to use when making mashed potatoes. They are waxy and ideally suited for creating a smooth mashed potato. I love their flavor and texture and use them when creating any mashed potato recipe.
Next, let’s discuss preparing the potatoes for cooking. I like to resist cutting the potatoes into small pieces before boiling. The more surface area you create, the more water will be absorbed by the boiling potatoes, causing the starch molecules to swell and absorb too much water. Instead, cut the potatoes into pieces approximately 2” square which allows the potatoes to cook quickly without soaking up too much liquid.
As soon as the potatoes are fork tender, remove the boiled potatoes from the hot water immediately to a colander. Allow the hot potatoes to drain for a few moments before returning them to the pan. Use a potato ricer or an old fashioned potato masher to break down the potatoes. Do not use a blender, mixer, or food processor to mash your potatoes as they will over work the starch molecules and produce gummy mashed potatoes that no amount of butter or cream will be able to tame.
Finally, do not add cold liquid to the boiled potatoes. A hot, steaming pile of potatoes doused in cold liquid will seize up due to the drastic difference in temperature, producing and releasing far too much starch to create the velvety smooth dish we all love. Instead, warm your liquids before adding them to the cooked potatoes. You’ll be amazed at the difference in texture and rewarded with glorious mashed potatoes to serve at your family table.
- One half head of green cabbage, core removed and finely shredded
- 1 leek, halved lengthwise, sliced thinly, and soaked and drained to remove grit
- 1 Tablespoon lard or butter
- 1 cup bone broth or high quality stock
- ½ cup whole milk
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- 3 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, washed and cut into 2” cubes
- butter for serving
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, melt the lard or butter, coating the bottom surface of the pan. Add the cabbage and washed and cleaned leeks. Season with salt and pepper. Sauté until translucent. Add bone broth, milk, and cream to the pot and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low to steep the flavor of the cabbage and leeks into the liquid. Keep the mixture warm as you prepare the potatoes.
- In a large pot, combine the cubed potatoes with enough cold water to cover and allow them to move freely as they boil. Place the pot over a burner on high heat, bringing it to a rapid boil. Reduce the heat as needed to maintain the boil but prevent the pot from boiling over. Continue to cook until the potatoes are fork or knife tender, approximately 15 minutes.
- Immediately remove the pot from the heat and drain the potatoes in a colander. Allow the hot potatoes to drain for a few minutes before continuing. You can use a potato ricer to break down the potatoes or return the cubed potatoes to the boiling pot to mash using an old fashioned potato masher. Take care to mash the potatoes without overworking them.
- Add half of the warm liquid mixture to the pot, stirring it into the mashed potatoes. Continue adding more liquid until the mashed potatoes are the desired consistency. If you find that you need more liquid, simply warm a bit of bone broth, cream, or milk before adding it to the potato mixture. Taste the potatoes, seasoning with salt and pepper as needed. Serve hot with an ample topping of butter.
This post is included in our 1840 Farmhouse Thanksgiving Gallery.
You’ll find our favorite Thanksgiving recipes all gathered in one place so that you can easily include them in your family’s celebration. I’ll be adding new recipes right up until the big day, so check back to see even more delicious and fabulous Thanksgiving posts.