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