Forget corned beef— a Darien resident’s legacy says colcannon is authentic St. Patrick’s Day fare

Colcannon photo courtesy SimplyRecipes.com

This story was originally posted in 2011. Since then, Gene Coyle has passed away, but here is his take on traditional Irish fare. Mr. Coyle was always adamant that corned beef and cabbage was not “Irish” tradition. It is reprinted here in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, and his memory.

March 17, 2011:

Gene Coyle

According to Darienite Gene Coyle, “Céad mile fáilte,” means “One hundred thousand welcomes” in Gaelic, and is the perfect phrase for this time of year.However, one welcome Coyle does not extend is to the most popular Irish fare associated by Americans with St. Patrick’s Day: corned beef and cabbage.

Coyle told The Darien Times his traditional Irish family upbringing, which included living in Ireland for a year at age 5, never included corned beef and cabbage.

“I don’t even like corned beef,” he said.

Instead, Coyle, whose mother grew up in Galway, said his family’s staple dish is called Colcannon, a mix of boiled potatoes, cabbage and onions, topped with bacon.

According to yourirish.com, Colcannon is a “tasty” traditional Irish dish historically associated with Halloween.

It was used as a way of telling someone’s fortune.

Charms, like a horseshoe, a button, or thimble, were included in the dish and whoever got the charms could count on the foretold associated marriage or wealth outcomes.

Coyle said he makes his by peeling and boiling one third each of onions, potatoes and cabbage until tender.

He recommends using Idaho potatoes as they are the “driest potato you can get” and most like potatoes from Ireland.

Once the potatoes, cabbage and onions are soft, Coyle drains them and mashes them together with “lots of butter” and salt, but no pepper.

He said if the mixture is too dry, you can add milk, or “if you want to get really fancy, add sour cream.” Then Coyle fries slices of bacon to top either a casserole dish for group servings or individual servings, and pours the bacon grease over the top to finish the dish.

Though he admits you “might have to be ‘bred’ to it,” Coyle also attests to Colcannon contributing to the hearty constitution of his grandfather, who lived to 94.

“It’s Irish soul food,” he said.

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  • Christina Bethancourt

    I had never heard of this before until I saw it pop up on my pinterest feed. I am making today and can’t wait to try! Thanks for the article!

  • gscott

    I just found this too. Potatoes. Cabbage. Leeks. Bacon. What’s not to like? But Corned Beef IS an Irish-American tradition, and it tastes GREAT! So eat it with pleasure!

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