Colcannon Cheddar Skillet Cakes
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You can make these colcannon cheddar skillet cakes from scratch in about 45 minutes. Or you can start with either leftover mashed potatoes or leftover colcannon and have them ready in less than half an hour. In other words, this is a great any-day meal for regular people that’s especially good the day after Thanksgiving and the day after St. Paddy’s for people way more organized than me.
Leftover mashed potatoes are kinda perfect as-is, so there’s an option here to to start these colcannon cakes from scratch (and eat your leftover mashed potatoes in their natural state).
What is colcannon?
Colcannon is a dish of Irish origin made from potatoes and cabbage or kale. We think of it as Irish mashed potatoes loaded with our favorite things — greens, something oniony, milk or cream, and butter. Beyond that, the details of traditional colcannon vary by region.
Our colcannon cheddar skillet cakes turn colcannon into super-savory little pan-fried morsels by mixing in eggs, flour, and a generous amount of extra-sharp cheddar. Serve these as a vegetarian main course, as part of a buffet, or as a side dish. You can’t go wrong.
What, no leftover colcannon?
I was going to try to pass off this recipe as the perfect day-after meal for St. Patrick’s Day, to use up all your leftover colcannon. Then it would be your fault if you hadn’t made colcannon yesterday. What a shameful person of Irish and/or non-Irish descent, or actual Irishperson, you would have been.
Hey, me neither.
But it’s me, and the only reason I would even attempt to perpetrate that kind of lie is because you can’t see my face right now. My brain has never had a thought, nor my heart an emotion, that hasn’t crossed my face. I never learned to play poker. There’d have been no point. I spend my would-be poker time on the yoga mat instead, attempting (largely in vain, obviously) to clean up the thoughts at the source.
Scripps National Potato Day
In truth, St. Paddy’s this year was no more to us than The Day After the Spelling Bee. We had a competitor in the regional round of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, a.k.a. the only time I cross paths with ESPN. She did great, and then, like 93 out of the 94 competitors from our region, she spelled something wrong. We needed a day to recover.
This won’t surprise you: boy did I love being in the audience at the spelling bee. There were magic moments. I liked how much you could tell about a kid by whether they chose the microphone that was slightly too short or slightly too tall for them. There was a boy who went everywhere skipping. One child asked to please be read the definition of “macaroni” — a clear stalling tactic I would emulate every day if I could. The sheer number of food words, arranged neatly by language of origin, verklempted me more than once. And the whole thing was both live-streamed on the sponsoring newspaper’s website and recorded on an analog tape deck. Which malfunctioned and was rewound with a pencil. Because it’s 2015.
With all that excitement, who could cook cabbage the following day? Lucky for all of us, this is a leftovers recipe you can make all at once. Technically colcannon itself — mashed potatoes with cabbage sneaked in — is usually leftovers to begin with, so making this recipe in a single bound pretty much breaks the space-time continuum. That’s a lofty goal for comfort food, but it’s one you can achieve P-R-O-M-P-T-L-Y.
- 4 medium baking potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks (about 2 pounds)
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 shallots, minced
- 1/2 head green cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup milk
- A few good grinds black pepper
- 4 ounces extra-sharp cheddar, shredded
- 2 large free-range eggs
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- Vegetable oil for the skillet
- In a medium pot, cover the potatoes with cold water by an inch or two, add the tablespoon of salt, and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to maintain a brisk simmer and cook until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes give or take depending on how big the pieces are. Drain potatoes in a colander and set aside.
- While the potatoes cook, prepare the shallots and cabbage.
- Return the same pot to the stove and heat the butter and olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cabbage and cook, stirring frequently (tongs are useful here), until cabbage is wilted and somewhat tender, about 5 minutes.
- Add the milk, raise heat to high, and warm until gently simmering. Remove pot from heat. Return the potatoes to the pot, add the teaspoon of salt and the pepper, and mash well with a potato masher. Stir in the cheddar.
- At this point the mixture will need to cool slightly — so either turn it out into a mixing bowl to speed the process or leave it in the pot to spare a dirty dish and wait a few minutes longer.
- Make a well in the center of the potatoes and crack the eggs into it. Beat them well, then stir completely into the mix. Sprinkle the flour over the whole thing and mix in thoroughly.
- Heat a thin layer of oil over medium-high heat in a 12-inch nonstick skillet. When it shimmers, spoon about three tablespoons of the mixture into the pan to form a reasonably round cake. You should be able to fit 4 cakes in the skillet at a time without crowding. Cook undisturbed for a few minutes, until the underside is nicely browned. Flip gently with a spatula and cook until the second side is browned, a few minutes more. You may need to adjust the heat so the cakes cook through in the same amount of time they take to brown.
- Set on a paper towel-lined plate or in a 200°F oven while you cook the remaining batches. Serve warm or at room temperature.
If you have leftover mashed potatoes, begin by cutting the shallots and cabbage and cooking them in the olive oil (omit butter, since it's probably already in your mashed potatoes). Let cabbage cool a bit, then add to a large bowl with the mashed potatoes, pepper, and cheddar and stir together. Proceed from step 6.
If you have leftover colcannon, place it in a large bowl, stir in cheddar and pepper, and proceed from step 6.