Photos by Amy Gramlich

 

Nothing speaks to the history of St. Patrick’s Day like a dish of cabbage and potatoes. This simple cabbage potato skillet features pan-roasted potatoes co-mingled with bacon and fresh cabbage in a comforting one-pan meal that is sure to please.

 

Cabbage and potatoes in Ireland:

 

A short history

 

Cabbage has been part of Irish cuisine for centuries, thanks to its reliability as a year-round crop that thrives in Irish soil and cooler temperatures. Because of its reliability, cabbage became an affordable vegetable for many Irish families throughout history during the 18th and 19th centuries.

 

By the early 1840s, more than half of Ireland’s population was relying on potatoes as the primary food staple for meals. However, during the Great Potato Famine in Ireland from 1845 to 1852, people sought other food sources and came to rely on cabbage. The leafy veg complemented other ingredients well and also offered nutritional value, leading many Irish cooks to explore different ways of preparation.

 

Once its versatility was realized, cooks gave cabbage the star treatment for side dishes, soups, stews and main dishes. Since those days, cabbage has played a starring role in colcannon, a traditional Irish dish made with mashed potatoes and cabbage, and in cabbage soup.

 

Know your spuds

 

For this recipe, choose potatoes that are of the starchier varieties. High-starch, dense potatoes have a low moisture point, which makes them versatile for frying, roasting and mashing methods of preparation. Popular potato varieties to use here include:

 

• Russet

• Idaho

• Yukon Gold (yellow potatoes)

 

Other potato varieties, such as red potatoes or fingerling potatoes, are waxier and have higher moisture and sugar contents. That means they will not crisp up as well and can darken too quickly during the cooking process.

 

Wilt it well

 

When cabbage is cooked, it wilts due to the breakdown of its cell walls and the release of water. The heat from the stove causes the cell walls to soften and lose their structural integrity. Ultimately, this leads to the breakdown of the cabbage leaves. Other vegetables that cook down or wilt by a similar process include spinach, collard greens, kale and Swiss chard.

 

Additionally, the heat also causes the proteins and other compounds within the cabbage to break down, further contributing to its wilting. As a result, the cabbage becomes softer and more pliable as it cooks.

 

The key to this particular dish is to let cabbage wilt somewhat while still keeping a bit of its structure. Basically, it should wilt about 75 percent. As the cabbage cooks, keep an eye on it, and allow the cabbage to cook for 5 to 10 minutes until it is mostly, but not fully, cooked down.

 

Add spices and color

 

This cabbage potato skillet is complemented by a dose of salt, black pepper and fresh parsley.

 

One benefit of adding a fresh herb such as parsley is the added green color. Once the cabbage cooks down, it loses some of its earlier vibrant green, giving the entire dish of cabbage and potatoes a pale appearance. Fresh parsley and chopped bacon bring back some color to the dish. Garnish with additional parsley before serving for a finished, appetizing look.

 

Other typical Irish spices include:

 

• Thyme

• Rosemary

• Garlic

 

Ingredients

4 strips bacon

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 pounds yellow potatoes, peeled and diced into one-inch cubes

1/2 yellow onion, chopped

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon black pepper

1/2 head cabbage, chopped into long strips

1/8 cup parsley, chopped

 

Directions

 

In a large skillet with deep sides, fry bacon on medium-high heat until browned. Remove bacon from skillet and crumble into small pieces once cool enough to handle. Leave bacon drippings in the skillet.

Add an additional drizzle of olive oil around the pan of bacon drippings and reduce to medium heat. Add peeled and chopped potatoes and chopped onion to olive oil and drippings. Season with salt and pepper.

Cook over medium heat for 20 minutes or until potatoes are golden brown and soft. After the first 10 minutes or so, add some of the bacon back to the skillet. Reserve a bit of crumbled bacon to sprinkle on top when serving.

 

Add chopped cabbage to the pan, stirring well to allow some cabbage to reach the bottom of the skillet.

Continue cooking over medium heat for another 5 to 10 minutes or until cabbage has cooked down but still has some of its structure remaining.

 

Serve with parsley and reserved crumbled bacon sprinkled on top.

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