Potatoes, Greens and So Much Comfort

Cooking, frankly, was the last thing on my mind this weekend.

But we had to eat. So I made the most nourishing, comforting, filling thing I could think of for dinner on Sunday night: colcannon, an Irish dish of mashed potatoes and greens that I covered with fried leeks.

The fried leeks aren’t traditional in a colcannon. Usually the alliums are stewed more slowly in butter when they are used at all. But I love the deeper flavor of browned leeks, so I saved some to toss on top for a crisp, savory garnish.

To make enough for three to four, boil 2 pounds of any potatoes you’ve got. I left the skins on because we like the earthiness they impart. But you could peel them before or after cooking once the potatoes have cooled.

In a large skillet, melt 2 to 3 tablespoons butter, along with a drizzle of oil, then add 1 cup sliced leeks or alliums of choice (shallots, onions, scallions) and a pinch of salt. Sauté over medium heat for five or so minutes. When the leeks are golden, spoon some out onto a plate to use for garnish.

To the rest of the leeks in the pan, add a couple of sliced garlic cloves, and cook them for a minute until fragrant. Then, toss in a mess of sliced sturdy greens — about 2 quarts of whatever you’ve got. Cabbage or kale is traditional. I used a mix of broccoli rabe and kale, though chard, collard greens or mustard would also work. Season with more salt and cook, tossing them, until the greens are wilted and very tender. If the pan looks dry, add a splash of water.

Now add the potatoes to the skillet and mash them (so they’re either smooth or chunky), and add some milk or vegetable broth if you like, and a lot of butter. Be generous. Everyone knows butter is the point of colcannon. Taste, and add more salt and lots of pepper. Scatter on the fried leeks and more butter to melt in little pools across the top. You could crown this with a fried egg or some smoked salmon, but we didn’t. I opted for a simple green salad on the side.

It was just the thing for a bit of much-needed comfort.

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