By Melissa Clark, The New York Times
You don’t have to be Irish to appreciate St. Patrick’s Day, especially when it comes to the food (green bagels excepted).
Like many people marking the day, I prefer to follow a more traditional path and rejoice in the green by piling colcannon on my plate, soft mashed potatoes speckled with bits of kale or cabbage and suffused with loads of butter (the more, the better).
Colcannon, which comes from the Gaelic term “cál ceannann” — most likely meaning white-headed cabbage — has been a staple in Ireland since at least the 18th century, when potatoes, a relative newcomer to the Irish diet brought over from the Americas, met cabbage and kale, leafy garden stalwarts that were already cornerstones of the cuisine.
At its most basic, colcannon consists of boiled potatoes and greens mashed together with milk and butter, sometimes with leeks, scallions or onions added for sweetness. But other root vegetables have, albeit rarely, made it into the pot. According to the diary of William Bulkely, on Halloween night 1735 in Dublin, he dined on mutton, he wrote, and “Coel Callen, which is cabbage boiled, potatoes and parsnips, all this mixed together.” But this seems to be an outlier in the colcannon canon.
Eating colcannon on Halloween, however, is traditional. In the past, fortunetelling charms were folded into the mash: A ring meant marriage; a coin predicted wealth.
For this recipe, I took the classic elements of potatoes, kale, alliums, milk and butter and added a few thyme sprigs for an herbal note and some cheddar for depth, both of which occasionally pop up among variations.
But then, wanting to turn it into a meal, I took a few more liberties. After mashing everything together in the same skillet used to cook the kale (why dirty a bowl?), I cracked some eggs into divots in the mixture and baked it until the eggs were just set but still a little runny. Depending on your perspective, all this may disqualify the dish from being called colcannon — in which case, call it potato-kale casserole with cheddar and eggs.
But you can still serve it on St. Patrick’s Day (or Halloween, for that matter), maybe even with a little corned beef on the side — no green bagels necessary.
Recipe: Potato-Kale Casserole and Eggs
By Melissa Clark
Inspired by a classic colcannon (potatoes mashed with kale or cabbage), this recipe turns those elements into a heartier meatless meal by cracking eggs into the mixture and baking it until the yolks are as runny or jammy as you like. Cheddar adds nuttiness and richness, and browned shallots round out the flavors and offer sweetness. You can make the potato-kale mixture a few hours — or even a day — before serving. Reheat it in the skillet on the stove until piping hot before adding in the eggs as directed in Step 7. This makes a substantial brunch or light dinner, maybe accompanied by a salad.
Yield: 4 servings
Total time: 50 minutes
- 2 pounds russet potatoes (about 4 large), peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
- 1 teaspoon fine salt, plus more to taste
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup thinly sliced shallots (or leeks or onions)
- 1 teaspoon chopped thyme leaves
- 1 bunch kale (about 8 ounces), stems removed, leaves coarsely chopped
- 2 to 4 tablespoons whole milk, as needed
- 1 cup shredded aged cheddar (3 ounces)
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
- 4 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons minced chives or scallions
1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium pot, combine potatoes with enough water to cover by 2 inches and several large pinches of salt. Boil until tender enough to easily pierce with a fork, 15 to 25 minutes. Drain.
2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. Add shallots, thyme leaves and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Saute until the shallots are very tender and deeply golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes (lower the heat if they start to burn).
3. Add kale to the skillet and cook until wilted and very tender, about 7 to 12 minutes. If the pan looks dry, add a splash of water. Taste and add more salt if needed.
4. Add potatoes to the skillet and mash them with the kale to your preference — smooth or chunky — and add the milk, remaining 4 tablespoons butter and 1/2 cup cheese. Add remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and black pepper. Taste and add more salt if needed.
5. Using a spoon, smooth the potato mixture and create 4 large, shallow divots. Carefully crack an egg into each divot. Sprinkle each egg with salt. Top the eggs and potatoes with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese.
6. Bake for 13 to 18 minutes or until the whites are set and the egg yolks are cooked to taste. Top with chives and more pepper and serve.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
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