Traditional Irish Champ (Mashed Potatoes with Scallions and Cheese)

I've had a bit of trouble getting motivated the past few months, so I decided it was time to take a brief break from writing and spend more time in the kitchen. That's always been my solution when words don't come to me easily. I spent the summer testing out new canning recipes, then took a brief vacation to Ireland where I was able to travel the country by train and try some new-to-me dishes.

There is nothing like a vacation to provide a bit of inspiration, but two days in to our trip I realized something: Despite the fact that I live in what I refer to as the frozen North, the temperature difference between Ireland and Southern Wisconsin is pretty substantial, even in the summertime. The days were cold and rainy, much like our typical fall weather back home, so I spent my vacation gorging myself on soup, fresh baked bread, and other dishes that are wonderful at warming you from the inside out.

Once I returned home the temperatures had gone through the roof, so I tucked all of my ideas away, thinking to pull them out once our weather back home cooled off. The trouble with that is our weather has been incredibly mild this year, it was 60°F only a week ago. This hasn't really put me in the mood for comfort food yet, but things are slowly changing. We finally had our first substantial snow of the year, so I knew the time had finally arrived to dust off the new recipes I'd been working on, starting with this delicious Irish Champ. 

Traditional Irish Champ | Not Starving Yet

Traditional Irish Champ

makes 6 - 8 servings


Ingredients

3lbs russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ cup whole milk
6 scallions, thinly sliced
¼ cup Kerrygold Irish butter, salted
1 - 2 ounces sweet cheddar cheese, shredded (see notes)
white pepper, to taste

Directions

  • Place cubed potatoes in a saucepan, add sea salt, and cover with 1 - 2 inches of cold water. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium. Allow the potatoes to simmer in an uncovered pan for 20 - 30 minutes or until they are fork tender. Larger potatoes will need to be boiled longer, so I prefer to check mine around the 20 minute mark and continue cooking as necessary.
  • In a small saucepan add whole milk and sliced scallions, then cook until the milk is warm. Do not boil.
  • Combine cooked potatoes, butter, warmed milk, and scallions in a large bowl, then mash until they've reached your desired consistency (I prefer to leave mine a little chunky.) Add the shredded cheddar and white pepper. Mix well, then serve immediately or cover and refrigerate until later. Enjoy!

Notes

You can use any type of cheddar you'd like in this recipe, although I'm partial to Kerrygold's Skellig. It adds just a hint of sweetness and gives the potatoes a rich, melt-in-your-mouth flavor. 

If you need to feed a large group of people this is a great dish add to your menu. It can be made a day or two in advance and reheated in the oven when you're ready to serve it. After you've made the potatoes place them in an oven safe baking dish and cover with plastic wrap. To reheat: Remove the plastic wrap, place the dish in a cold oven, turn the heat up to 350°F, and bake for 30 - 45 minutes or until the potatoes are no longer cold in the center.

 

Colcannon (Irish Mashed Potatoes with Kale)

I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before, but I spent my first few years of school pursuing a degree in Computer Engineering—a seemingly odd choice for someone as artistically incline as me, but by the time I left for college I had already spent four years working in the computer industry. After that a degree in computer engineering seemed like the natural choice, but I quickly realized how much I hated it. No matter how hard I try I will never be mathematically inclined, so I dropped all of my classes and started researching art programs. This is how I finally landed at the University of Missouri  St. Louis (UMSL) pursuing degrees in both graphic design and photography.

Which, if you ask me, was a much better fit.

I don't regret my decision to jump ship mid-degree, even though it took me a few extra years to graduate since I only went back to school part-time. What I do regret is that I missed out on some really great parties, especially around St. Patrick's Day. You might not realize this, but St. Patrick is the patron Saint of Engineers. As a young college student I spent many a day drinking in St. Pats honor, a tradition that continued once I married a computer engineer. These days I try not to drink my weight in green beer, Guinness, and Bailey's (or whatever other God-awful green concoction someone would dream up as we ran out of "the good stuff") but I do still have a taste for more traditional Irish fare. My favorite dish is Colcannon, a potato-based dish consisting of fluffy mashed potatoes, butter, and kale or cabbage. It's perfect for St. Patrick's Day, but makes a pretty killer side-dish for Easter too. 

If you're looking for some other great ideas for your St. Patrick's Day celebration, don't forget to try our recipes for Reuben Salad with Rye Bread Croutons and Russian Dressing, it's a great way to use up your leftover corned beef!

Colcannon | Not Starving Yet

Colcannon
makes 6-8 servings

Ingredients

2.5lbs russet potatoes
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 cups kale, chopped
4 ounces Kerry Gold butter, salted
1/4 cup half and half
additional salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

Directions

  • Place potatoes in a saucepan, add sea salt, and cover with 1 - 2 inches of cold water. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and allow the potatoes to simmer in an uncovered pan for 30 - 50 minutes or until they are fork tender. Larger potatoes will need to be boiled longer, so I prefer to check mine around the 30 minute mark.
  • Bring a second pot of water to a boil, add 3 cups of chopped kale (ribs removed, and blanch for 3 - 5 minutes until the leaves are tender and bright green. Transfer the blanched kale to a colander and allow to drain completely.
  • Once the potatoes have finished cooking place them in an ice bath to cool, then slip the skins off with your hands. They should peel off fairly easily, if not place the potatoes back in the ice bath to cool longer or use a potato peeler.
  • In a large bowl combine potatoes, Kerry Gold butter, and half & half. Mash the potatoes until they've reached the desired consistency (I prefer to leave mine a little chunky) then add the blanched kale and additional salt, to taste. 

Notes

If you've used the ice bath method mentioned above to easily peel your potatoes you may need to reheat this dish before serving. 

This recipe is incredibly flexible. If you aren't a fan of kale feel free to substitute another leafy green or go the more traditional route and use cabbage.

Loaded Potato Salad

With our busy schedules I don't get the opportunity to do much entertaining, but I always make an exception for the 4th of July. The weather this time of year is beautiful so we invite our family up from Missouri and host a huge BBQ. My husband picks up brats, which are made fresh at the local deli, while I take care of the side dishes and dessert. This year I set about making a double batch of the Creamy Summer Coleslaw I posted last week and went to work on finally perfecting the perfect potato salad. 

Coming up with a potato salad that will please everyone is much harder than you would think. Every person I know has a very firm opinion about what makes potato salad great and don't even get me started on the mustard vs mayo debate. This is one of the few dishes I know that manages to spark an argument every time it hits the table. While my version is mayonnaise based the sour cream gives it a tang that mustard lovers will appreciate. It also doesn't hurt that I've loaded it with shredded cheese, bacon, and chives. My guests managed to tuck away over 3lbs of potato salad in under 20 minutes. It's the first time I've ever run out of a dish halfway through a meal since I tend to make enough food to feed a small army. My Loaded Potato Salad is the perfect summertime side dish so make sure you whip up a batch for your next picnic or BBQ, it's sure to be a hit.

LoadedPotatoSalad.jpg

Loaded Potato Salad
makes approximately 6 - 8 servings 

Ingredients

2.5lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
8 ounces apple wood smoked bacon ends and pieces
½ cup sour cream
½ cup mayonnaise
3 fresh chives, thinly sliced
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste
½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese 

Directions

  • Place potatoes in a stockpot, cover with warm water, and boil for 25 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender. Keep in mind that larger potatoes can take as long as 40 minutes to cook. Transfer cooked potatoes to a bowl of ice water and once cool enough to handle remove the skins. Dice potatoes and set aside.
  • Add bacon to a cold skillet, then set heat on medium. Allow to cook until crispy, periodically flipping so it browns evenly. When cooked to desired level remove and set on a paper towel lined plate to drain. Once cool cut or crumble the bacon and add to diced potatoes. 
  • In a mixing bowl combine mayonnaise, sour cream, chives, kosher salt, and black pepper. Mix well, then add to diced potatoes. 
  • Refrigerate at least 6 hours or preferably overnight. Before serving add shredded cheese and stir to combine. Top with additional shredded cheese, bacon, and chives if desired.

Notes:

I like to use bacon ends and pieces because they contain more salt than standard bacon. If you can't find them use an equal amount of sliced bacon and add more kosher salt if you feel it is necessary. 

Spicy Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Mashed potatoes are a staple in this house for any holiday meal and in the past I've often spent hours in the kitchen preparing huge batches of fluffy potatoes loaded up with sour cream and butter. Several years ago I was looking to add a bit of variety to our holiday menu so I started making mashed sweet potatoes for our Thanksgiving dinner. They quickly became one of my favorite side dishes to prepare, if only because they are much less time consuming to make than regular mashed potatoes. There is no peeling or boiling involved and very little mashing, so it is a huge time saver during an already jam packed week. I need every extra minute I can get during the holidays, don't you? They also make an excellent side dish to chicken or pork and I make them often when sweet potatoes are in season. This year I decided to dress them up a little bit with some cayenne pepper, cumin, ginger and white pepper just to give them a little kick. If you're looking for something just a little bit different this year give these a try, I'm positive they'll become a staple in your home too.
Spicy Mashed Sweet Potatoes
makes 6-8 servings

Ingredients

3lbs sweet potatoes (this ended up being 4-5 medium potatoes)
4 Tablespoons salted butter, melted
2 Tablespoons maple syrup (I used Grade A Golden Amber)
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon white pepper
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon ginger 

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 400°F. Scrub potatoes, place on a foil lined baking sheet, and puncture each potato with a knife or fork (to allow steam to escape.)
  • Bake for 1 hour if using medium sized potatoes, or longer if using large sized potatoes. Large potatoes can take up to 2 hours to bake. If you're in a hurry, or the oven is in use, you can also cook the sweet potatoes in the microwave on high for 10 - 15 minutes.
  • Remove potatoes from the oven or microwave and let them cool before removing skins.
  • Scrape the potatoes into a mixing bowl, then add melted butter, maple syrup, cayenne pepper, white pepper, cumin and ginger.
  • Use a mixer or potato masher to combine ingredients. Serve the potatoes immediately, or make this dish ahead of time and reheat the day of your event. Enjoy!