Hello, March! That means it’s time to start putting your Irish on! St. Patrick’s Day is the one day a year where everyone can be Irish and being Irish means the potato is a staple in your diet. More than a wee bit o’ the Irish courses through The Don’s veins and he would be happy eating potatoes every day. Seriously, the ever-versatile spud is well loved in our household and there is no groaning going on when I do recipe development for the Idaho Potato Commission.
While almost the entire U.S. is fighting cabin fever during the incessant blizzard of 2015, March came in like a lion, even in Southern California, with a freak hailstorm here in Huntington Beach that interrupted weather coverage of the barrage of named blizzards for at least one day. Freak hail storm and subsequent water damage to certain houses with southwest facing windows or doors near the beach aside, St. Patrick’s Day always has us thinking of what to eat or drink that is Irish.
A lot of thought and planning goes into the recipes I develop and it’s a good thing, because the day I had scheduled to make and photograph my Irish-leaning dish turned out to be an afternoon of drip containment, hail removal and working around a crew of technicians setting up industrial heat fans (6 of them) and gargantuan dehumidifiers (2) – all sealed off in a plastic-draped room with zippers to do what insurance companies call mitigating damage. I prevailed, though my photos, save a few, were a little shaky.
March is also National Nutrition Month and nutritious, heart healthy, low sodium recipes are my forté, so I concocted a satisfying stick-to-your-ribs potato cabbage soup that’s a twist on Colcannon – a traditional Irish dish of mashed potatoes with kale or cabbage mixed in. Every Irish family has their own version of colcannon, but messing with the mashed potatoes is not recommended in my house, so I took an alternative route. There are tons of potato soups with cheese and bacon, and even potato soup with cabbage, but this one is distinguished by being heart healthy, low sodium, and low in fat.
How can a recipe that includes bacon and cheese be heart healthy or low in fat? Simple – you use these flavor-packed comfort food favorites sparingly, and let their presence punctuate the soup with a pop of crispy saltiness and melty goodness. I also veered from the expected by using Castello Caraway Havarti Cheese instead of cheddar, adding caraway seeds in the soup to highlight the caraway flavor of the cheese, and sourcing a lower sodium, lower fat uncured bacon made from happy pigs not raised on antibiotics. Guinness beer deepens the flavor of the homemade chicken stock and adds Irish flair, as it did to the Guinness Beef Stew I made for St. Patty’s a few years ago. I think you’re going to love this soup, and it is easily made vegetarian by eliminating the bacon. But why?
- 2 slices of uncured bacon*
- 1 tablespoon rendered bacon fat
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 large onion chopped (about 3/4 cup)
- 3 small carrots diced
- 4 cups cabbage coarsely chopped
- 2 large cloves garlic minced
- 2 large Idaho yellow-skinned potatoes peeled and chopped into cubes
- 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds ground
- 1/2 teaspoon crumbled dry sage
- 1/2 teaspoon Lo-Salt
- 1 bay leaf
- 6 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth preferably homemade
- ½ cup Guinness or dark beer of your choice
- crumbled bacon
- 1/2 cup shredded Castello Caraway Havarti cheese
- thinly sliced cabbage
- sliced green onion
Heat cast iron dutch oven or heavy 3 qt. saucepan over med-high heat. Cook the bacon until browned and crispy, about 10 minutes. Remove the bacon to a plate lined with a paper towel to absorb the fat and cool. Drain all but a tablespoon of the bacon fat from the pot. When the bacon has cooled, crumble it and reserve for later.
Return the pan to the burner on medium heat, add the other tablespoon of olive oil. Add the onion, cook for about 5 minutes, until it begins to soften. Stir in the carrots, cook for another 2 minutes. Then, add the cabbage and garlic. Cook the cabbage mixture for about 3 minutes, until softened.
Add the broth and Guinness and spices: white pepper, caraway seeds, bay leaf and Lo-Salt, and stir well to combine. Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer on medium. Simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes, until the potatoes can be pierced with a fork.
Remove from heat, allow the soup to cool a little before pouring into a food processor or blender to puree. Or a handheld blender works great if you like your soup to have little chunks of potatoes and cabbage, like I do.
Ladle the soup into bowls. Sprinkle bacon, shredded cheese, and thinly sliced cabbage and green onions on top of each bowl.
*I used W Brand uncured dry-rubbed bacon made from pork raised without antibiotics, available at Trader Joe’s - it has 40% less fat and less sodium than mainstream brands, and better flavor.
*Lo-Salt is reduced sodium salt alternative that has 66% less sodium than regular salts. Regular salt may be used if desired.
This soup can be prepared in a slow cooker. Cook time is dependent on your particular slow cooker.
May your day be touched
by a bit of Irish luck,
brightened by a song in your heart,
and warmed by the smiles
of the people you love.
~from Island Ireland~
Disclosure: I was compensated for developing this recipe by the Idaho Potato Commission for National Nutrition Month. All opinions expressed are my own. You can view all my recipes developed especially for Idaho Potatoes here.