::: Before I dive into this post, let me first thank everyone who voted to help me move into Round 2 of Foodbuzz’s Project Food Blog. I was so humbled by the awesome comments left in my Round 1 post that I actually teared up at some of them. It was a nerve-wracking week while voting was going on but I made it safe and sound.  That said, I truly hope you enjoy my Round 2 post: The Classics. :::

Many have heard of Bangers and Mash but few have heard of colcannon.  While Bangers and Mash is traditional English pub food served with fried onions or onion gravy (or for Americans, sausages and mashed potatoes), Bangers and Colcannon put simply, is classic Irish pub food of sausages and mashed potatoes with cabbage. Or kale. And some versions have scallions.  Some call for ham or bacon while others do not.  On the surface, sausages and mashed potatoes with cabbage sounded straightforward but with all the variables for colcannon, I could see that this dish wouldn’t be easy.  Though, it shouldn’t be easy if the Foodbuzz Challenge Details say to go outside your comfort zone with a classic ethnic dish.

And go outside my comfort zone I did.  Here are the top 3 reasons why I was crazy for choosing this classic Irish dish:

1. First and foremost, I’ve never eaten it. Kyle has ordered it on the two occasions we’ve eaten at this great Irish pub in Portland, ME, called Bull Feeney’s. He raved and raved about Bangers and Colcannon for over a year until we made it back up to Portland this summer. So his love for this dish was my motivation for this challenge.

2. The thought of an Irish dish involving cabbage makes me shudder since I’ve never liked cabbage in almost any form.

3. And to wrap up this growing list of reasons: I didn’t have a recipe. Sure, Googling “colcannon” brings up a bunch of recipes but none of them passed Kyle’s test.  Apparently, they didn’t sound enough like the description on the menu at Bull Feeney’s.

So I was faced with making a dish at his request begging that I’ve never eaten involving an ingredient that I detest and without a recipe.  Great.

My first step in recreating this classic Irish dish was to go to the source.  Yeah sure, a trip to Ireland would have been nice but not practical of course.  I called Bull Feeney’s and asked for some pointers on making the dish.  The woman explained that it was traditional bangers with a brown sugar gravy served with colcannon.  I inquired further about the colcannon, probing about how to work the bacon into the dish, as we had seen on the menu, and she explained that the cabbage was sautéed in bacon and drippings with some added butter. I thanked her profusely for her help and hung up the phone.  Kyle was surprised to hear about the brown sugar gravy and asked how to make it. ::Crickets:: I never asked the woman about the gravy. He literally did a forehead slap.  I couldn’t well enough call her back so I told him I’d wing it.  Seriously though, I was winging this whole meal so what was another piece of it?

Yesterday, I got to work…picked up the ingredients, including authentic Irish bangers from Whole Foods (my regular grocery store doesn’t carry them), and got started in the kitchen in the mid-afternoon so that I didn’t miss the early waning natural light of late September. (So what if dinner would be at 5 instead of 6? I needed photos!) With all of the ingredients prepped in advance and with three pans working simultaneously on the stove, I methodically moved through how I envisioned the dish in my brain.  Boil potatoes. Sauté bacon. Brown bangers. Add cabbage and butter to bacon.  Add beer to bangers. Make gravy. Mash potatoes and add cabbage. And then…all of a sudden…the dish was finished!

The end result of this classic Irish dish is something I am truly proud of.  Recreating Bangers and Colcannon from the ground – up without a recipe was one thing.  It was another to make it great enough to pass Kyle’s test (which, by far, it did).  And it’s entirely another thing to fully and wholeheartedly say that I love this dish. I couldn’t get enough of it for dinner last night and will ashamedly admit, as only a food blogger could to an audience of people I don’t really know, that I overstuffed myself.  The colcannon was awesome, though how could it not be with bacon in it?  The dreaded cabbage was unassuming, ever so slightly crisp, and its contrast in texture with the mashed potatoes was perfect.  I never dreamed that a beer reduction cooked with brown sugar could be so amazing and it was the brown sugar gravy that completely put the whole dish over the edge.

I hope that you’ll try this classic dish in your own home and let me know how it turns out for you!  

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Irish Beer-Braised Bangers and Colcannon with Brown Sugar Gravy
source: Smells Like Home original, inspired by Bull Feeney’s, Portland ME
Serves: 3-4

For the bangers and gravy:
6 Irish bangers (or small, mild sausage)
12 oz Guinness beer
1 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter mashed with 1 1/2 tbsp flour
Pinch of Kosher salt
1-2 tbsp chicken stock, as needed

1. In a 12″ sauté pan, brown bangers on all sides over medium heat. Add beer to pan, reduce to a simmer. Braise bangers until they are fully cooked and the beer reduces by half, about 10 minutes.
2. Remove bangers from the pan and whisk in brown sugar, butter/flour mixture, and salt until the mixture is smooth.  Bring gravy to a gentle boil and reduce to a simmer until thickened.  If the gravy thickens too much, add 1-2 tbsp of chicken stock as needed.

For the Colcannon:
1 1/2 lbs potatoes, peeled (I used baby reds but Russets would work too)
2 3/4 tsp Kosher salt, divided
4 oz bacon, diced
3 cups cabbage, thinly sliced
3 tbsp unsalted butter, divided
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, divided
1/4 cup heavy cream

1. Place potatoes in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water.  Add 1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Boil until potatoes are fork tender, about 10-12 minutes. Drain and keep warm in the saucepan you boiled them in.
2. While the bangers brown and potatoes boil, cook bacon in a 12″ skillet over medium heat until almost crisp, rendering as much bacon fat in the pan as you can.  Add 2 tbsp butter, allow to melt, and then add the cabbage. Sauté mixture until cabbage is almost tender but a slight amount of crunch remains, about 10-15 minutes while stirring occasionally.
3. Add heavy cream and 1 tbsp butter to the potatoes and mashed until almost smooth.  Gently stir in the cabbage-bacon mixture.  Serve hot with the bangers and brown sugar gravy.

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  • September 26, 2010 at 4:55 PM

    You were very brave! I would have never dared making a dish with cabbage ’cause I hate it myself. Great job and great photos!

  • September 26, 2010 at 4:55 PM

    Perfect comfort food ! Good luck with PFB !

  • September 26, 2010 at 4:58 PM

    This actually looks good – not just weird! Thank you – I actually like cabbage and kale. I’m not just enjoying your blog but I’ll also enjoy cooking up Irish bangers and collcanon!

  • September 26, 2010 at 5:04 PM

    I felt like you did in making a dish that I’ve never tried before but it was well worth it! I hope we both continue to advance in #PFB2010!

  • September 26, 2010 at 5:18 PM

    Looks amazing Tara! You did an awesome job building the recipe. Good luck in round two!

  • September 26, 2010 at 5:59 PM

    Yum and yum! I’ve never tried that dish but it looks amazing! And good for you for going WAY out of your comfort zone!

  • September 26, 2010 at 7:58 PM

    congratulations! your dish came out like you didn’t sweat at all 🙂 good job on this!

  • September 26, 2010 at 8:37 PM

    Oh my goodness your dish looks sooo good. You did a fantastic job with the 2nd challenge. I love how you chose a dish with an ingredient you don’t like! Good for you! Best of luck! 🙂

  • September 26, 2010 at 10:26 PM

    I love how you went about researching this. You deserve a trip to Ireland. That is funny – probably the one thing Google doesn’t have? Looks delicious.

  • September 26, 2010 at 11:23 PM

    What a great dish and post. Glad you were able to go out of your comfort zone and churn out something fantastic! Good luck next round!

  • September 27, 2010 at 11:41 AM

    Wow I am so impressed w/o a recipe!!! It looks wonderful! Good luck in round 2!

  • September 27, 2010 at 11:52 AM

    I love colcannon! I make it often in the winter, when all I get from the CSA are things like potatoes and cabbage. I like to put some leeks in there, too. I think it’s a great dish because it’s easily adaptable to what you have on hand and rarely requires a recipe. Well done, and good luck in Project Food Blog!

  • September 27, 2010 at 4:30 PM

    Gorgeous post. This is exactly what I want for dinner right this instant. Yum.

  • September 27, 2010 at 6:22 PM

    Great post and as the only other contestant I’ve seen yet who did something Irish you get one of my votes. I did Irish too 🙂 and seriously considered Colcannon and ended up choosing something else. Yours looks delish. Good luck in the contest!

  • September 27, 2010 at 6:35 PM

    Fun entry, nice photos. I voted.

  • September 27, 2010 at 7:34 PM

    Ooooh, this looks so good, especially that gravy. I’m trying to write my meals roster for the next few weeks (never an easy task) and this is going straight in! Can’t wait to try it.

  • September 28, 2010 at 12:16 AM

    this looks delicious 🙂 Good luck with project food and you got my vote for this one! Feel free to drop by 🙂 Good luck and best wishes for making to the top !! WOOHOO

    jen @ http://www.passion4food.ca

  • September 28, 2010 at 1:57 AM

    I was about to agree with you on never liking a dish with cabbage, but then I remembered Chinese Dumplings – and I LOVE them!
    It looks beautiful (I would say delicious, but I’m not a fan of sausage or cabbage!)
    I voted for you – good luck!

  • September 28, 2010 at 4:04 AM

    fantastic that you made something with an ingredient you did not really like, and even better that you enjoyed what you made. You get my vote 🙂

  • September 28, 2010 at 8:53 AM

    You’ve got my ♥ vote! Hope to see you in round three.
    ~ Mary

  • September 28, 2010 at 9:27 AM

    Okay, well, I just had to check out this post for obvious reasons. You did a marvelous job, it looks GREAT! Wish I could vote 3 times! Good luck!

  • September 28, 2010 at 4:34 PM

    Anything with gravy gets my vote! And I’m making mashed potatoes tonight. As for the cabbage? I must disagree with you there. As simple cabbage sauteed in bacon grease will get me every time. So yummy. Good Luck!

  • September 28, 2010 at 5:05 PM

    Great looking sear on those bangers! Nice job. Good luck on PFB.

  • September 28, 2010 at 6:15 PM

    you’re right, I have heard of bangers and mash, but not Colcannon.
    Thanks for the tutorial and it looked great, definitely have my vote:)

  • September 28, 2010 at 8:51 PM

    Great post- and I have to vote for someone who chose Irish cuisine !!!

  • September 28, 2010 at 10:41 PM

    Great post! Great pics. Really well done. I voted for you!

    Good luck! =)

    You can check out my PFB post at : http://www.foodbuzz.com/project_food_blog/challenges/2/view/864

  • September 29, 2010 at 12:18 AM

    Heyy! You’ve got my vote! What a great dish to challenge yourself with. I also enjoyed reading the story behind the “recipe” 😉 That’s what happened to me at some points while completing this challenge. Cheers to a happily stuffed belly!

    XOXO best of luck!

  • September 29, 2010 at 2:26 PM

    Wow, I would love to try this! You did an amazing job with the research and execution of this dish!

  • June H
    September 29, 2010 at 9:29 PM

    Tara, you are something special! Besides blogging and being cook extraordinaire, you could consider being a food stager!

  • September 29, 2010 at 11:39 PM

    Lots of kudos for going outside your comfort zone and creating a dish from the ground up. Even more kudos for passing Kyle’s taste test and having never eaten the dish. This is a great post and was a pleasure to read. You two sound like you are having blast. I look forward to seeing what you will cook up next. You got my vote 🙂

    Lick My Spoon

  • September 30, 2010 at 12:06 PM

    This dish looks so yummy! I’m getting hungry…

  • September 30, 2010 at 12:11 PM

    This dish looks awesome! I admire how you challenged yourself to make something way out of your comfort zone!

    Best of luck with PFB! Just voted for you!

  • September 30, 2010 at 1:14 PM

    What a hearty and comforting dish! It looks amazing! Good luck in this round!

  • Steph
    September 30, 2010 at 3:02 PM

    I really enjoyed your post. I have so many memories of eating Colcannon (with braised corned beef and freshly baked Irish soda bread) for special dinners cooked by my Irish grandmother. She taught me how to make it, emphasizing the importance of sauteeing the cabbage in the bacon drippings. Most people have never heard of it, so I’m glad you picked this dish to share. Good luck!

  • October 17, 2010 at 4:32 AM

    we cooked this tonight and it was fantastic, I loved the Colcannon and loved the smell of the sauce cooking, we will be definately having this again soon thank you so much

  • November 13, 2010 at 2:08 PM

    It took me a few weeks, but I finally tried this recipe 🙂 I saw bangers at my Whole Foods (gotta love ’em) and immediately wanted to do bangers and mash; then, I remembered this post, so I rushed home to make it – very tasty! I used Sam’s (since that’s what we had in the fridge) but it still worked like a charm. I think next time I may try molasses instead of the brown sugar – all the flavor, but not quite so sweet. But all in all, thanks for a great recipe!

  • January 19, 2011 at 9:33 PM

    Used chicken apple sausage because I couldn’t find Irish bangers anywhere. Super tasty!

  • Hezfiedler
    January 25, 2011 at 12:18 PM

    Was looking for recipes to use up the cabbage I had in the fridge and stumbled on this one. Not one ingredient I don’t like . . . how could I go wrong? Well I couldn’t and didn’t. It was awesome! Thanks for the legwork!

  • June 16, 2011 at 11:27 AM

    This looks delicious, and may just be the ticket for today’s Bloomsbury Day meal I’m trying to put together. Of course, if I were really honoring Leopold Bloom, I’d go for some pork kidneys, but – er – I’m not in the mood. I have some kohlrabi coming from the farm, which I may substitute for the cabbage in the colcannon, but everything else sounds great. Lovely pictures, too, BTW — I sympathize with cooking when there’s natural light available to photograph by; my blog pictures are often off-color since I have a *very* small window of light (literally – as in size and period of time) in my kitchen.

    • June 20, 2011 at 4:17 PM

      As it turns out, this *was* the ticket for my Bloomsday meal. I couldn’t find bangers, but Whole Foods’s garlic and pork sausages were a lovely stand-in. Let me know what you think of what I did with your lovely recipe: http://bit.ly/l47FRo

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