Who can resist a nice, steaming bowl of mashed potatoes?
Alright, maybe SOME people can. But, I am afraid that I am not one of them.
When we're in the mood for comfort food, not much compares to a bowl of sultry, creamy smashed taters. But, mashed potatoes alone don't exactly comprise a very healthy meal. So, we've taken to ramping them up a bit by adding some greens to the mix.
In the mood for a mid-week casserole, we decided to go with variation on the Irish/Welsh dish, colcannon, usually comprised of potatoes that are mashed with cabbage or kale, and mixed with any variation of leeks, butter, cream, chives, garlic, and other variables.
We happened to have a healthy handful of collard greens on hand, so we started there. We removed the tough portion of the collard stems, and chopped the leaves into manageable, bite-sized strips. Then we threw them into the steamer for a few minutes until they were nice and tender.
We chopped up a few potatoes, leaving the skins intact, and put them to the boil in some salted water.
While the potatoes and kale were cooking, we caramelized some onions in a nice large pan. When they were nicely browned, we deglazed the pan with a cup or so of brown ale -- gathering up all those delicious browned bits that clung to the pan and granting the onions a bit of that delicious beer-y flavor.When the potatoes were soft, we mashed them up with a glob of sour cream (you can definitely use a non-fat variety here to save on calories... you will never notice the sacrifice in the finished dish). And we folded in those beautiful brown onions.
Of course, we also happened to have a nice block of Castle Rock organic raw milk cheddar in the fridge. The raw milk variety has an unmistakeably deeper cheddar flavor than the pasteurized varieties -- and a nice, "cheesy" edge that I can't quite describe, except to say that it's absolutely delicious.
Being curious about the regulations surrounding raw milk cheese, I glanced at the FDA guidelines and discovered that the current FDA law stipulates that any cheese made from raw milk must be aged for at least 60 days before it can be sold to consumers. The 60-day aging reduces the chances of contamination by bacteria, like Listeria (which can present a danger to immuno-depressed individuals and pregnant women). Raw milk cheesemakers are obsessive about the health of their animals and the care they take with their equipment, procedures, and products -- so raw milk cheeses present very little danger to the consuming public.
The Castle Rock cheese is a bit on the crumbly side, as you can see from the photo. But, it was just perfect for grating into this dish. As you can see, Peef couldn't wait to get his hands on some of this cheesy goodness, so I set him to work grating it!
We greased a large, shallow baking dish and spread about half of the mashed potato mixture on the bottom of it.
We sprinkled the potatoes with a bit of the grated cheddar...
... and then piled on the steamed collard greens. Just look at that fantastic color.
Once the collards were evenly distributed, we added the remaining mashed potatoes to the top, spreading them to cover.
We topped the casserole with a final grating of cheese... and then slipped it into a 375º oven for about 30 minutes.
After that period of time, the casserole was heated through nicely, and the cheese was melty. But, I was craving a bit more color. So, I put the casserole under the broiler for a few minutes. The final product was... er... very tempting.
Scooping into the "collard-cannon," as Peef affectionately named the dish, we discovered heaven. Delicious layers of potatoes, onions, tangy cheese, and collard greens...
Vegetarians can enjoy this as a delightful main course. Carnivores can add a side of Irish sausage, a breast of chicken, or even a slice of roasted (or grilled meat). Whichever way you choose to enjoy, collard-cannon is a winter treat that shouldn't be missed!
And there's more! We're entering this lovely dish into the February Potato Ho Down. Cuz we're potato hos and that's the way we roll.
You can check out the roundup of potato recipes on Noble Pig beginning Wednesday, February 18, 2009.
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