Does an Irishman like potatoes?

Ah, now, is the Pope Catholic?

Every culture has stereotypes.  I find Irish stereotypes seriously flawed and strangely amusing.  For example, I’ve never seen an Irishman dressed as a leprechaun drinking green beer.  However, I’ve been wished “Top ‘o the mornin'” by a Texan dressed as a kilt-wearing leprechaun.  He was actually drinking Guinness, and I think he was trying to find the bottom of the keg.  (My family wishes me to specify that the kilt-wearing man was not related to me.  He was simply a fellow concert goer at the North Texas Irish Festival.  I feel compelled to mention, that he was also sporting a battered straw hat and nipple rings, but that’s a ‘whole nuther’ kind of story!)

Pub lunch with mashed potatoes and roasted potatoes.

Drinking Guinness leads us to our second Irish stereotype.   This is the one that says, all Irishmen are genetically programmed lushes.  I’ve sat in quite a few Irish pubs listening to music.  The Guinness and Harp flow pretty freely there.  However, I’ve seen more drunks weaving their way through our local Texan-populated St. Patrick’s Day parade than in all my Irish pub nights.

Dublin Bay casserole topped with mashed potatoes.

Next on my list of Irish stereotypes is the hair-trigger temper and propensity to have a ‘donnybrook’.  Well, I’d tell you that isn’t true, except I’m surrounded by people of Irish descent who occasionally ‘get their Irish up’.  However, the tempers at my house are (mostly) reserved for inter-sibling arguing, inanimate object berating, and occasional under-the-breath livestock cursing.

Smoked salmon pie topped with mashed potatoes and a side of chips (french fries).

In Ireland, we didn’t see many examples of fiery ‘Irish tempers’.  I did see one old farmer who became incensed, because, he thought the young city-boy next to him had insulted his favorite pub.  Explanations were given. Guinness was shared.  No punches were thrown.

Quiche with potatoes, carrots, and rutabagas on the side. Note: The custard on the pie is addictive!

There are a few stereotypes that held true for me in Ireland.  The Irish are a friendly people.  There are exceptions to every rule and jerks in every group, but overall we found the people of Ireland to be very welcoming.  The cynical side of me thinks that’s due to the large part tourism plays in their economy, but the heart of me believes  Ireland is lucky enough to have an open and kind culture.

I have no idea what this is called, but it was amazing. It was at a Polish restaurant in Galway. The ‘dumplings’ were filled with goat cheese and (you guessed it) potatoes.

The other undeniable fact that masquerades as a stereotype is the ubiquitousness of the Irish potato.  For example, we ate at an amazing restaurant in Galway.  The food there really stood out on our first trip.  I ordered the special, which happened to be turkey and dressing.  I love fresh seafood, so I eat a LOT of salmon and mussels in Ireland.  By the time we reached Galway, I was ready for a change of pace.  Turkey and dressing sounded perfect!  In Texas, dressing is made from cornbread, but I knew that in other countries it is typically made with bread.  I like both, so I thought I was prepared.

Beef stew topped with mashed potatoes on Inisheer.

When my plate arrived, I discovered that dressing in Ireland is not made of bread at all!  It was sort of like loaded mashed potatoes, except that the goodies weren’t bacon and cheese.  It had all the seasoning and vegetables I would put in dressing stirred into mashed potatoes.  It was different but very tasty.  However, that wasn’t the funniest thing.  It was that the potato dressing was served with a side of roast potatoes…and the roast potatoes were served with a side of fried potatoes.  So, I had a plate loaded with turkey, cranberry sauce, mixed vegetables, fresh soda bread, and potatoes, Precious, lots of potatoes.  Seriously, the Irish boil them, mash them, and stick them in a stew!  They also fry them, bake them, and stick them in the dressing.

Our favorite pub in Galway. It is across the street from the turkey and dressing restaurant (whose name I can’t recall).

That meal stands out as the most ‘potato-ey’, but I’m not sure we had any lunches or dinners that didn’t involve spuds, which is ok with me!  I like potatoes, and Irish food is terrific.  It isn’t as though there was okra at every meal.  (I absolutely cannot abide okra!  It is the one vegetable that made me rebel as a child.)

Going with today’s theme of ever-present potatoes, I thought I’d share our recipe for colcannon.  This is a tastier, richer, slightly healthier version of mashed potatoes.  At least, it would be healthier if I could resist topping it with fresh melting butter.  We have colcannon at every ceili and St. Patrick’s Day party.  I make it ‘just because’ sometimes too.  In Ireland, I’ve eaten colcannon with kale, as I make it, and with cabbage.  I am not sure if that is a regional or seasonal variation.  Actually, it could simply be the Irish version of’ ‘use what you’ve got’!

My Irish colcannon, with the obligatory pat of butter.

I hope you’ll give colcannon a try.  It really is the only way I’ve ever gotten my mother-in-law to eat more than one obligatory bite of greens!  After all, her family comes from Ireland, so potatoes make everything better!

Irish Colcannon
Print Recipe
Everyone knows about Irish stew and corned beef and cabbage, but we need a side to go with our St. Patrick's Day feast! Colcannon is always a big hit. Even people who don't like greens with go back for seconds. The leeks give depth of flavor, the kale has nutrition and brightness, and potatoes are creamy and wonderful! I hope you'll give colcannon a try!
Servings Prep Time
6 People 20 Minutes
Cook Time
30 Minutes
Servings Prep Time
6 People 20 Minutes
Cook Time
30 Minutes
Irish Colcannon
Print Recipe
Everyone knows about Irish stew and corned beef and cabbage, but we need a side to go with our St. Patrick's Day feast! Colcannon is always a big hit. Even people who don't like greens with go back for seconds. The leeks give depth of flavor, the kale has nutrition and brightness, and potatoes are creamy and wonderful! I hope you'll give colcannon a try!
Servings Prep Time
6 People 20 Minutes
Cook Time
30 Minutes
Servings Prep Time
6 People 20 Minutes
Cook Time
30 Minutes
Ingredients
Servings: People
Instructions
  1. Thoroughly wash leeks and place in a saucepan with milk. Heat on low, until soft. (I usually start them first and allow them to cook while I cook the kale and potatoes.)
  2. Add kale to a pot of boiling water and boil for ten minutes. Drain thoroughly, rinse with cool tap water, and set aside.
  3. Boil potatoes until tender (about twenty minutes depending on chunck size.) and drain.
  4. Add butter, salt, and the milk from the leeks. DO NOT add the leeks yet.
  5. Mash as for mashed potatoes. Add more butter or milk as needed for consistency. I like them to be a little on the thick side.
  6. Squeeze all the water you can from the kale. Excess moisture will make the dish runny and will give it a peculiar green tinge.
  7. Stir leeks and kale into mashed potatoes.
  8. Serve topped with a pat of melting butter!
Recipe Notes

Normally, we eat colcannon as a side dish.  We make a little dent in each serving and fill it with a pat of butter.  Then, we dip each bite (from the sides) into the well of butter on top.  It is amazing!

I also occasionally use colcannon leftovers to top what we call "Mockingbird Pie".  This is made with chicken.  (I'm not sure where the name came from.)  Mockingbird Pie is a variation on Shepherd's Pie, the greens and leeks in colcannon really compliment it.

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  1. I have to admit, your Irish Colcannon was the first time I ever tried Kale. Granted, that was over 20 years ago….but I like it now in multiple dishes!!

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