Monday, March 17, 2014

My Irish Adventure, Part 2

Part 2? Where was part 1, you ask?  Well, it hasn't been written yet, but it inspired what I made for dinner tonight, so even though this is being written first, it is part 2 of the adventure. 

I've been inspired recently to dig into Irish cuisine, due to a trip to the DC area and specifically to Restaurant Eve, a delightful oasis of comfort and deliciousness in Old Town Alexandria, VA.  (Part 1, which will be written soon)

For St. Patrick's Day this year, N bought a package of Irish bangers, so the first thing we thought of was Bangers and Mash.  But our son doesn't like mashed potatoes (I know.  I can't believe it, either.), so N mentioned something that our friend Janet does to get her family to eat mashed potatoes.  She adds roasted, mashed cauliflower and they love it (is this Bizarro world?). 

Then I looked at the beautiful book I sent home to N from my vacation to DC, My Irish Table, by Chef Cathal (the 't' is silent) Armstrong, the executive chef/owner of Restaurant Eve.  I wasn't lying when I told him that in Ireland I found a cuisine of my soul.  When I saw his recipe for colcannon, I knew what we were going to have with our bangers.  A true Irish dish.

N and I wanted to lighten up the potatoes by adding the mashed roasted cauliflower, so I started by roasting a head of cauliflower this afternoon.  It was but into florets, tossed with olive oil and salt, then roasted for 30 minutes in a 450 degree oven.  After letting it cool a bit, N added some milk, butter and salt and beat it into submission using our immersion blender. 

Chef Armstrong's recipe called for kale as the green element in the colcannon, but another recipe we picked up this weekend at Central Market used cabbage.  The Central Market recipe called for bacon, but Chef Armstrong's didn't.   I decided I liked the idea of the kale better.  It would be less stinky and would look prettier.  Of course I had choose adding bacon...because bacon.

I made some mashed potatoes (I will admit to using instant mashed potatoes...don't judge.  For reference, it was the 3-4 serving size amount), fried the bacon (2 slices, cut into lardons), stirred in about half the cauliflower mash and about 2 cups of blanched kale, then realized that I had forgotten the onion. 

I was already frying the bangers in the bacon pan, so I had a brainstorm of frying the onion in the pan once the bangers were done.  So I tossed the sausages onto a pan in the oven to stay hot, then added the onions to the sausage fat, where they caramelized beautifully.  Then I dumped those in with the potatoes, cauliflower, kale and bacon, stirred the whole thing up with a little more salt, and tasted. 

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, it was so good.  I am surprised that N and I didn't eat ourselves into a stupor. 

The roasted cauliflower gave the mixture a wonderful sweetness, the kale provided some crunch, the bacon added smokiness and some chewiness, the potatoes made the whole thing gorgeously creamy. 

So if you want to have a little Irish adventure in the kitchen, try a bit of colcannon. 

Jenny's version of Colcannon

3 cups mashed potatoes
1 medium-sized head of cauliflower
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup milk
2 rashers of thick-sliced streaky bacon (not Irish bacon)
1/2 medium yellow onion
3 cups chopped kale, blanched for 1 minute
salt and pepper to taste

1. preheat your oven to 450 degrees F.  Break down the head of cauliflower into 1-inch florets.  Toss in olive oil and salt, place on a sheet pan and roast for 25-30 minutes, turning about halfway through the cooking time.  Let the cauliflower cool enough to work with it without having to worry about the splatter burning you when you blend it.  Warm the milk slightly in the microwave.  Put the cauliflower, butter and milk into a large bowl and blend with an immersion blender until there are no large lumps.

Fry the bacon until crisp.  Remove the bacon from the pan and add it to the cauliflower.  In the bacon fat, fry the chopped onion until it is soft and begins to caramelize.  Add them to the bowl with the cauliflower and bacon. 

Blanch your kale (please remove the one wants those woody little things in their mash) in boiling water for 1 minute, then 'shock' it by transferring it immediately to ice water to stop the cooking process.  The goal is to get it bright green and soften it just a little bit, but leave some of the crunch to the leaf.

Make your mashed potatoes (however your conscience dictates) in a pan that is large enough to combine all your ingredients.   When the potatoes are done, dump the other ingredients into the pan, stirring to combine.   Leave the mixture on low heat just long enough to warm it through.

Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.


Thanks for stopping by!  Happy St. Patrick's Day!