Thursday, March 8, 2012
Champ - Scallion Mashed Potatoes for St. Patrick's Day
From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...Mashed potatoes were a real treat when I was a child. Our standard daily fare was a plain boiled or baked potato, but on Sunday those lowly spuds were transformed into a billowy mounds of creamy goodness that were fortified with butter and cream. It went a step further when my Grandmother was visiting. She made slight changes to my mother's recipe and by infusing the cream she used with scallions, our Sunday treat became Champ, an old Irish favorite. Nowadays potatoes are served as an accompaniment to meals, but there was a time in Ireland when potatoes were the meal. Traditionally, people who observed religious fasts would abstain from meat on Fridays. Champ became a popular meal, particularly for those who lived in inland areas where fish was not available. In their stead, Irish cooks made huge quantities of scallion infused mash. Champ was served in individual bowls and each portion had a well of melted butter in the center. The dish was eaten from the outside in. Forkfuls of potato were taken from the outer edges of the mound and dipped in the melting butter before tasting. Champ, by the way,is a translation of the Gaelic word brúightín, which means to bruise or pound. The dish should be made from winter potatoes that are cooked, then peeled and mashed. I like to rice the potatoes before mashing. Never use a mixer to prepare these. Over beating will make the potatoes gummy and you'll be disappointed with the results. Hot is the operative word here. Hot milk or cream should be beaten into the hot potatoes with a wooden spoon. The end result is a fluffy mound of potatoes flecked with scallions. This dish is much like Colcannon, which is made with cabbage or kale instead of scallions. I prefer Champ because it is lighter. I hope those of you who have never sampled the dish will give it a try. It is a perfect side-dish for St. Patrick's Day. Here's the recipe.
Champ ...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite courtesy of Darina Allen's Irish Traditional Cooking
3 pounds (6 to 8) unpeeled baking potatoes, e.g., Russet or Yukon Gold
1 large bunch (4-oz.) scallions (use the bulb and green stem)
1-1/2 cups milk or light cream or half-and-half
4 to 8 tablespoons butter
salt and freshly ground pepper
1) Scrub potatoes and boil them in their jackets.
2) Finely chop scallions. Cover scallions with cold milk and bring slowly to a boil. Simmer for about 3 to 4 minutes, then turn off heat and leave to infuse.
3) Peel and mash freshly boiled potatoes and, while hot, mix with boiling milk and scallions. Beat in some butter, reserving most for serving. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve in one large or four individual bowls with a knob of butter melting in center.