October 2, 2013 at 1:00 am

Maureen Tisdale

Let's Talk Food: Potluck winners, including a reader-suggested colcannon

Irish Colcannon ('loaded potatoes') can be topped with parsley instead of green onions. (Maureen Tisdale / The Detroit News)

A few weeks back, I asked readers for ideas for easy ethnic dishes for an international potluck at church. They offered several; after checking into what others were bringing, I settled on colcannon, an Irish potato-cabbage dish suggested by reader Dennis Neylon. But I’m pretty sure I’ll try more of them over time.

For example, I know my husband would love the enchiladas Matt Turner suggested, so I’m saving that as a special treat for when he won’t have to have just one to save room for other potluck items. And I really, REALLY originally wanted to make Carbonnades a la Boeuf Flamande (Belgian beef stew) reader Paul Chandler suggested — I’ve never made anything Belgian before — but I found out fellow-potlucker Nora would be bringing a Puerto Rican beef dish and another friend, Elaine, would be bringing Swedish meatballs. So with plenty of beef and too-few sides, the Belgian stew got tabled for now, along with other reader suggestions.

Besides, my brother Bill (you may remember him as the hero of last year’s Thanksgiving, which is how he has suggested I refer to him) is red-headed and green-eyed, and he and my sister Tiff (you may remember her as the health-focused master of the one-liner) both sport freckles, so I assume we must have some Irish in us. Based on that very official genealogical theory — and the fact that I had a couple pounds of potatoes on the counter I wanted to clear away, plus I love cabbage — I forged ahead.

I looked online for ideas, but what I did in the end was my own based on bits I liked from several recipes, what I had on hand and upcoming plans; for example, I wanted to buy a huge cabbage to use more later in the week, but if I hadn’t, I would’ve taken Dennis’ great tip: “This is really easy to make if you cheat and use cole slaw mix instead of shredding the cabbage.” What a time/mess saver that would be; also, you’d probably end up with a finer chop than my lazy strands.

In any case, the dish was hit, even though I skated in so late (always — why???) most people had already loaded their plates with Swedish, Puerto Rican, Italian and other foods and had to go back to try it. They called the colcannon “loaded potatoes,” which I guess it was by the time I was done with it.

So what are your potluck dish winners? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below the recipe. You need a Facebook account to add comments, but they’re free and easy to sign up for. Maureen Tisdale, Detroit News Food Editor, will be keeping an eye out the next few days to respond to any great comments or questions you post. You can also follow her on Twitter @reentiz. Join the discussion!

Tisdale Colcannon

Everyone seems to have a favorite way to do bacon; I played with it, putting half in the oven at 375 for 25 minutes (too long, I think), half in the microwave for a minute per slice (cracked a plate!). Mine came out the microwave better, so I mixed the oven-made in and used the prettier microwaved bacon on top.

Two bulbs garlic
1 pound bacon, divided
About 2 pounds (I had 2 pounds, 2.8 ounces) russet potatoes, cut into large chunks, skin on
1 cup chopped green onion (about 6, down to the stub)
5 tablespoons butter
1 pound finely shredded green cabbage
¾ cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 chunk bleu cheese (I used 3.2 ounces rough chopped)
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Green onion to top

Preheat oven to 375. Slice a thin layer off the garlic bulbs so all the cloves are exposed, drizzle them with olive oil and wrap them in foil. Put them in for about 35 minutes while you make the rest; if you want to do your bacon in the oven, you could put it in for the first 15-20 minutes and then let it sit out to cool a few for easier handling.

Cook potatoes in boiling water about 20 minutes or until very tender. While potatoes are cooking, melt butter in a large skillet on medium high. Add scallions (green onions — why doesn’t anyone call these scallions anymore? That’s how I remember them from childhood — is that just a Maine thing?) and cook for 5 minutes, then reduce heat to medium and add the cabbage. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes more, or until very soft (if you cover the pan after about 3 minutes, the retained moisture will help), stirring occasionally.

Drain the potatoes well, squeeze in the now soft roasted garlic and mash together with potato skins, adding milk, salt and bleu cheese. Stir in half the bacon and the cabbage mixture and season with pepper; top with rest of bacon and garnish with green onion and voila, you, too, can have an Irish dish everyone will call “loaded potatoes.”