Have you ever been completely, abjectly wrong? A time when you were so confident of what you believed that you simply turned away from any other point of view or experience. And, then you are challenged, nay you challenge, to a duel and you are embarrassingly shown up in your silly stubbornness. So shocked are you that you simply give in and accept not just your mistake but the reality that trumped your former prejudices?
Yeah, that has happened to me a lot. I am one of strong opinions and convictions. So, I can spot that in others so easily. It is a very interesting experience to be on the other side of that person, I take particular joy when it happens to others in matters of food and culture.
So many cuisines around the world are chalked up and brushed off as bland, unexciting, odd, boring etc. And, often that is because the person has simply never tasted the real stuff.
Idaho has nothing on NY! Maybe it is because of how wet upstate NY is throughout the year..? Like Ireland!
I, for example, don't like Chinese cuisine. To me it is bland, gelatinous or greasy and totally unwarranting of hype. But then, I have never really had a proper Chinese meal, ever, since I have not yet been to China!
You are probably laughing at me by now and wondering if I am insane. In New York, where every cuisine makes its mark, how could I say that? The reality is that no matter how authentic any ethnic restaurant wants to be, to be viable in a foreign market, there needs to be some adaptation to the palate of the market.
Even more, since the quality of ingredients are vastly different, it is an unfair goal. For example, what one finds bland here could simply be the inferiority of the meat/fish/produce used rather than the cuisine itself.
British/Irish/Scottish cuisines suffer from that generalization of blandness. Meat and potatoes is the abject disdain with which the entire landmass food is painted. Ironically, the history of Britain's cuisine is quite indulgent, rich borrowing influence from her neighbors as well as her conquests. Albeit, this was the luxury of the rich, who in Tudor times to Victorian through the Elizabethan dined on sumptuous courses decadently sauced and served with a temperamental French flair.
But, it is the commoner's meal that become more associated with the cuisine, unsurprisingly given that they emigrated the most and their food is the easiest to source. Nevertheless, the issue is not about the societal strata but the perception that it is bland without the garnishes of flavorings and flamboyance of seasoning.
The reality is the stuff tastes so good to begin with, over there, that you need little more than salt and pepper to bring out the best in it! In the UK, despite the industrialization of agriculture, the average meat or produce tastes so much better than in the US.
Hop over to Ireland where many farms and fisheries are still family operated and backyard husbandry abounds, it is simply an insult to the ingredient to douse it in seasoning or sauce. The meat or vegetable shines in its own glory!
All you need are salt and a fat pat of Irish butter and its divine.
The first time I visited Ireland, I was warned about how much everything is cooked to obliteration in a home kitchen. It is beyond well-done. It is simply over done in many cases. I was prepared and I kept my expectations at bay. But, I was completely unprepared for how amazing it tasted despite the overzealousness of the technique.
Oh and the potato... Ah the potato! The Irish are sensitive about their potatoes. Rightly so. History had the blight and the plague. But, that is in the past. They have a right to so today because their potatoes taste bloody awesome!! All you need are salt and a fat pat of Irish butter and its divine.
Did you ever eat Colcannon, made from lovely pickled cream?
With the greens and scallions mingled like a picture in a dream.
Did you ever make a hole on top to hold the melting flake
Of the creamy, flavoured butter that your mother used to make?
Yes you did, so you did, so did he and so did I.
And the more I think about it sure the nearer I'm to cry.
Oh, wasn't it the happy days when troubles we had not,
And our mothers made Colcannon in the little skillet pot.
For a long time, I was picky about my potatoes from the supermarkets. They are bland. Then, I discovered farmers' markets and the produce of upstate New York. I don't think the region classifies as fine agrarian terroir but it is seriously awesome for growing root vegetables. Maybe there is something to do with how much more wet it typically is throughout the year..?
Like Ireland! Idaho has nothing on that....
Since that fine discovery, the potato has been a regular staple in my pantry. In light of all of this waxing I have been doing about international cuisine, I am sharing an Irish potato dish from county Kerry in South West Ireland - Colcannon.
To me, it brings the best of everything I love of Irish food - said potatoes, quality meat, savoy cabbage (THE BEST I have ever had), and, Irish dairy! Bring them together and it's heaven!
This dish is typically served as a side with boiled ham (yes, boiled! Don't shirk it till you taste it...) or some other pork dish. I served it with fish. Broiled salmon. It was AWESOME! It is that kind of versatile!
4 New York red potatoes
2 cups tender savoy cabbage, shredded
2 strips of thick cut Irish or Canadian bacon
6 T butter
1/3 cup half and half
salt and pepper as needed
Steam the potatoes till really tender. Rest the potatoes and in the same steamer, soften the cabbage a little.
When the cabbage is in the steamer, Slice the bacon into half inch cubes and fry over medium heat till the fat is rendered and meat crisped.
Add the half cooked cabbage to the crisped bacon and saute for a few minutes for cooking through and for flavor
Mash the potatoes with peel and with butter. Season with salt and pepper. Loosen with half and half. Fold in the bacon and cabbage mix
Transfer to serving plate and sprinkle with chives (optional) on top before serving and a pat of butter!
This post is a FSK partnership with the US Potato Board and Honest Cooking. Thank you for supporting FSK clients.