Thursday, March 15, 2012

St. Patty's Potato Joy... Potatoes Colcannon

I love mashed potatoes. They are probably on the scale of one to ten in the top 9 percentile of the foods I love. I have had them in so many ways I cannot even tell you. My friend John makes them with rosemary and lots of cream cheese. I love them loaded like at Vickery's my favorite bar restaurant in Charleston, and I love them whipped into perfection with lots of butter and cream like at a fine French restaurant.

So it only makes sense that at some point I would talk about mashed potatoes. And since it is St. Patricks Day and everyone in the world is offering up a dish for the holiday I decided to get in the swing and offer up one that might be a little fun.

Now I am supposedly a little Irish on some level, what with my father's family coming from the English and German stock they did. Irish is always in the mix there somewhere I suppose. But whether or not one is Irish or not St. Patricks Day is a fun and rowdy time for all. And a time to enjoy some of the fine dishes that that country has brought to these shores.

It is a little funny to me though, that my introduction to this very Irish dish was through a very American restaurant called the Cherry Creek Grill in Denver, Colorado. Cherry Creek Grill is a member of the Hillstone corporation family of restaurants.Now I don't know how many of you know this, but the Hillstone Corporation is a never ending source of interest for me. Not just because I love to eat there, but also because they have succeeded where many other chain restaurant companies have failed in creating excellent and fresh menus at price points that keep people coming back. They serve food which, as a colleague of mine puts it, is what people want to eat! I was on tour with Cameron MacIntosh's "Oliver" National tour, and we sat down in Denver. A guy I knew in Denver took me to dinner at the Cherry Creek Grill and I had the potatoes colcannon there for the first time. And I have to say they were awesome. Creamy and rich mashed potatoes mixed with sauteed cabbage and onions and lots of butter. Yum!

Now Potatoes Colcannon or "white headed potatoes" as there are known from lore in Ireland are a dish which normally contains potatoes and cabbage and onions and maybe scallions and of course loads of butter! So when I set out from that point I thought about what I do and don't enjoy about the idea of cooked cabbage. I think maybe it's from having too much boiled cabbage growing up but I sort of don't fancy it. However, I am intrigued by how the two elements of mashed potato and the cooked cabbage made such a great dish when I first tried it at that Hillstone restaurant. However I knew after all this time and the foodie things I have experienced that if I were to make them, I could up the anty.

My thought processes about this made me think about two things. I have read that colcannon can be made with Kale. I like Kale. So I thought why not work with that. The second thing I thought about was that I like green foods. So if I were to make colcannon I would like it to be a little more green than the version I had at Cherry Creek Grill. Now I have expressed before in the blog my love of colored foods. Foods that take on a different color shade due to some emulsion of another food or addition of herbs etc. are so great to me. Great to me from a taste standpoint first, but also from a composition standpoint when talking about putting foods together on a plate. So I wanted to make a greener spicey and more flavorful version of the dish I loved so much when I had it the first time, whew...not a short order!! Cause why.....Hillstone rocks but here it goes!!

My first inclination was to take example from one of the Chefs at work who created gorgeous green basil ( not pesto ) whipped potatoes a couple of years back for the Spring menu that year. He told me the trick was to blanche the basil so that even when it was added to the warm potatoes it would retain it's green color and not turn a pasty brown. An old culinary trick but an effective one. Next I thought about my ingredient list. I already had the Kale, but why stop there. So I added for the onion more green power, leeks and scallions. And for a bit of a kick a bit of garlic for even more added fun. For the consistency I decided that buttermilk would do a better job and flavor than just cream and of course lots of butter.

To insure the dish had both color and texture I decided that blanching the greens quickly then pureeing them with some buttermilk and butter would be the emulsion that would color and flavor my colcannon nicely. Then for some texture a few reserved scallions for garnish as well as a big "knob" of butter to finish off the dish. Sounds yummy. You bet! So enjoy trying this and Happy St Patty's Day.

Potatoes Colcannon with Leeks and Kale

4 or 5 good sized Yukon gold or golden yellow potatoes scrubbed and diced into pieces
handful of salt
2 leeks cleaned light green and white parts only
2 cups chopped kale packed tightly
1 large bunch scallions thinly sliced on the bias 1/2 cup reserved for garnish
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup sour cream
1 stick butter cut up
1 tablespoon minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste


Place potatoes in a heavy bottomed pot with salt and bring to a boil
Cook till potatoes are easily pierced with a fork
Then remove from heat and hold warm.
Meanwhile bring another pot of water to a boil
Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl.
Add kale and leeks and blanche quickly until the kale turns bright green then remove from the boiling water  about 4 to 5 mins and place into an ice bath in a large bowl to stop the cooking.
Drain on paper towels and set aside.
Place greens into a blender with the scallions and blend with 1/4 cup buttermilk and 1/4 stick of room temperature butter
Blend until pureed and still a little chunky (ie. not thin think texture).
Open potato pot lid and add the emulsion mashing the potatoes until mashed add sour cream and 1/4 stick butter salt and pepper to taste and the garlic.
Mash and stir till well combined. If not loose enough add the buttermilk a little bit at a time till you have the consistency of whipped mashed potatoes.

To serve place the potatoes in a large serving bowl and garnish with the remaining butter and scallions or serve in small bowls and place a knob of butter in each and garnish with the scallions.


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