An Irish Tradition: Colcannon


A couple weeks back, I came across a recipe for ‘Colcannon.’ As I soon learned, it is a traditional Irish dish of mashed potatoes with cabbage. Sounds delicious, right?!

My fridge is currently full of leftovers from Thanksgiving including mashed potatoes – which I used to love as a child but lately have found bland*. I also happen to have leftover cabbage from making corned beef meaning… Colcannon. I figured it is a classy, (healthy?) way to jazz up leftovers.

Breakfast in Bed(stuy) / Colcannon

Prior to actually making this dish, I researched it’s origins and the traditions associated with it. Apparently, it is a Halloween dish in Ireland where it is customary for families to leave a plate of it (with a lump of butter in the middle) for fairies and ghosts. I also read that a coin, button, ring and thimble are hidden inside for children to find (much like the figurines placed in King’s Cakes). Apparently, the child who found the coin would be rich; the child who found the ring would be married within the year; and the “poor children who found the thimble and the button were bound for a bit of bad luck” (What?!). I’ve also read that the thimble and button signify spinsterhood and bachelorhood, respectively…. I would pray to get the ring or coin! This is kind of a messed up tradition. Can anyone confirm or deny this? I’m so curious about Colcannon in Ireland.

Also, oddly enough, there is a famous song ‘Colcannon’ or ‘The Skillet Pot,’ as Wikipedia informed me. Take a listen!

Some of the lyrics are as follows:

“Did you ever eat Colcannon, made from lovely pickled cream?
With the greens and scallions mingled like a picture in a dream.
Did you ever make a hole on top to hold the melting flake
Of the creamy, flavoured butter that your mother used to make?”

Also I should note that my best friend Gina and I envision retiring in Ireland to fight crime and drink tea. Long story but anything Irish holds a special place in my heart as a result (that would include my main celebrity crush at the moment Chris O’Dowd).


Adapted from Saveur 

2½ lb. russet potatoes, peeled
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, plus more for serving
¼ medium head green cabbage, cored and thinly shredded
1 cup milk
⅓ cup heavy cream
4 scallions, green parts only, finely chopped (optional)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Prepare potatoes and mash.

Breakfast in Bed(stuy) / Colcannon

Add butter to pan; when melted, add cabbage, and cook, stirring, until wilted, about 5 minutes.

Breakfast in Bed(stuy) / Colcannon

Stir in mashed potatoes until evenly incorporate. Season with salt and pepper, and transfer to a bowl. Serve hot with large pats of butter on top.

Breakfast in Bed(stuy) / Colcannon

*In the handy book I have, What’s a Cook to Do?, the author gives several ideas for flavoring mashed potatoes. They include: adding small amounts of wasabi, boiling celeriac with the potatoes and then pureeing, 1 clove of garlic for every 1 potato, and 1 fennel bulb for every 4 potatoes (boiling and then pureeing as with the celeriac). 

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