Bloomsday Bangers and Colcannon with Brown Sugar Guinness Gravy
1 pound yukon gold potatoes
4 oz bacon
1 head cabbage
4 spring onions
3/4 pound pork sausage
12 ounces Guinness beef
salt and pepper
My basics tonight were thick cut bacon, sausages, potatoes, and cabbage. Almost everything else I had on hand, so on top of being a celebration of a literary masterpiece, this was cheap enough a meal for even Stephen Dedalus to afford (in today’s economy – relatively speaking, that is). Whole Foods used to carry bangers, but when I asked the butcher why I didn’t see them in the window, he said no one had ever purchased them or even showed any interest — until they no longer had them. But they did have a non-Italian styled “garlic and pork” sausage, which was mild enough to stand-in for the traditional banger, even if they were larger. I purchased 3, knowing I’d split them later.
I start with my potatoes, which I peel, cut into 8ths, dump into salted water, and bring to a boil for about 15 minutes, or until I can easily pierce them with a fork.
Meanwhile, I dice my bacon and very thinly slice my cabbage.
The bacon goes into a hot pan, along with a generous helping of fresh cracked black pepper, to render all the fat and crisp.
But oh – there’s not enough fat yet! I add a couple tablespoons of butter to the pan, and let it melt and foam before I add the cabbage shreds. I toss this very well, coating all the greens with slick bacon fat, then I set the heat to medium and let this sizzle and sautee for about 10 minutes, until the cabbage is just tendercrisp.
This bundle of spring onions wasn’t the greenest — they felt more like small leeks — but the flavor was fine. I chop them roughly, reserving and inch or so of each of the ends to julienne for a final plate garnish.
The chopped onions go into the cabbage pan, where they get tossed in well, too. After about 5 more minutes, salt and pepper to taste, mix one or two more times, then remove the cabbage mix from the pan and set aside.
Now these are some beautiful sausage. They are a bit understuffed (read: limp) actually, which works rather well in the long run, since they have some steaming room inside the casing, resulting in more tender meat. It also keeps them from splitting open during the cooking process, even after you pierce the membrane to release some of the inner juices.
I’ve got my large skillet set over medium high heat, and I’ve got a few glugs of EVOO shimmering hot on the surface. In go my links, which I let sear on each side until they’re each striped with brown.
When my links are nice and browned, I add my bottle of beer, set the heat to medium, and let my links steam the rest of the way to cooked-fully-through. My Guinness will reduce and condense, concentrating all its malty chocolate Irish flavor as it goes, getting ready to become gravy.
Meanwhile, I’ve drained, then mashed my potatoes with a fork, and it’s time to cream them up. I add a couple tablespoons each of butter and sour cream and about a cup of milk. I return the pan to low heat, and whisk this well into a nice, creamy whipped potato – adding milk as needed until it is just the right consistency.
It’s time to make colcannon out of mashed potatoes. I add my reserved bacon and cabbage and onion and black pepper and butter mix to my spuds, and stir well, fully blending the two delicious side dishes into one.
My beer has reduced by 2/3rds, and my sausages are perfectly cooked. I remove them from the pan, and set them aside, leaving the beer boiling over the heat.
I take about a tablespoon of softened butter, and a tablespoon of flour, and I mash it together to form a paste.
I also have about 2 tablespoons of rich, sticky brown sugar ready. I whisk the butterflour and brown sweetness into my boiling, thickened Guinness, lowering the heat to medium, and I let this ambrosia simmer down to a glossy syrupy glaze.