An Irish Feast: Poached Salmon and Colcannon

irish dinner

Poached salmon, colcannon, brown soda bread, and raisin soda bread

Since I was young, my Irish family has celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with a feast. My mother cooks up a big Irish meal—corned beef, cabbage, carrots, peas, boiled potatoes, and soda bread—and we take the time to relax as a family.

soda bread

I do still make soda bread, but I save my baking for weekends, when I have more time.

Now that I’m out of my parent’s house, the urge to have a sit-down dinner on St. Paddy’s remains. Unfortunately, the tiny kitchen doesn’t go well with corned beef. If you’ve never made a corned beef before, it’s a lot of work (Alton Brown has a great, relatively easy recipe if you’re interested). First, the meat needs to soak overnight to get out the excess salt. A huge pot does not fit well in my tiny fridge. Second, they don’t really sell the meat in small portions. As my husband and I aren’t huge beef eaters, we would have too many leftovers.

Therefore, my St. Paddy’s feast has morphed into something just as delicious but better for a small space—dill poached salmon and kale colcannon. Both of these recipes are quick, easy, and take no more room than you’d have on your stove.

Poached Salmon

Just add dill, wine, and fish!

Poached salmon is one of the easiest dinners I make. It isn’t the most budget friendly, due to the cost of fish, but Trader Joe’s has great frozen salmon that won’t break the bank (about $7.99 a pound). For the holiday, I splurged for fresh fish from Fairway, but the frozen fish is my go-to. Just put some dill in a pan, put the salmon on top, add the liquid, and cook about 10 minutes.

scallions and milk

Heating the milk can make potatoes creamier, but so can adding just a little bit of buttermilk.

Colcannon is a traditional Irish side made from cabbage and potatoes. My recipe is a little different. It’s based on a New York Times recipe I saw years ago and swaps the cabbage out for vibrant kale. Colcannon is a bit more work than traditional mashed, but the extra flavor is worth it. This recipe calls for the scallions to be steeped in the milk, but to save time (and dishes), just add it in when you mash. To make up for the loss of creaminess, just add a splash of buttermilk in addition to the regular milk.

Then pour yourself a Guinness, heat up some frozen peas, and you have a proper Irish feast!

The best thing about my salmon dinner is the leftovers: salmon potato cakes. I’ll give you that recipe in another post. Until then, sláinte!

Dill Poached Salmon
Serves 4

1 pound salmon
1 cup dry white wine
1 bunch of dill (don’t chop – just use the whole stalk)

Make sure the salmon doesn’t have any pin bones by brushing your finger down the seam of the fish. If you feel anything poking out, gently pull out the bone using tweezers.

Spread the dill in the bottom of a deep pan. Place the salmon on top of the dill, skin side down. Pour 1 cup of white wine over the fish. Fill the rest of the pan with water to almost cover the top of the fish.

Cover and place pan over medium low heat. The liquid should come to a simmer but not to a rolling boil, or the fish will cook too fast and become tough. If you see white gooey stuff (known as albumin) coming out of the fish, it is cooking too fast. Even at a low simmer, the fish should only need about 10 minutes to cook. Gently separate one of the layers of fish to test if it is done. It should be light pink and slightly shiny in the center.

Remove the fish from the cooking liquid and discard any dill stuck to the fish. Cut into four portions and serve.

*Note – if you save half of the fish and about of a third of the dill, this can be used as leftovers in salmon cakes.

Kale Colcannon
Serves 4

2 pounds potatoes (red or Yukon Gold will make for the creamiest colcannon)
1 bunch kale, leaves separated from the stems and stems discarded
4-5 scallions, white and green parts chopped
1 cup milk
1 Tbsp butter
Salt and pepper to taste


Squeeze water from kale like a dish rag. It will form into little, easy-to-chop chunks.

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add kale to boiling water and let cook for approximately 5 minutes (kale should be fully cooked but have a slight bite to it still). Remove the kale from water and submerge in cold water to stop the cooking. When the kale has cooled, squeeze out any excess water. Finely chop the kale.

Peel and wash potatoes. If you are using Yukon Golds, white potatoes, or red potatoes, you do not necessarily need to peel. The peel can add a nice level of flavor. Cut potatoes into 1 inch chunks. Put in a large pot and cover with cold water. The water should be several inches above the potatoes. Bring to a rolling boil and cook for 15 minutes once the water has boiled.

As the potatoes are cooking, add the milk and scallions to a small saucepan. Heat on low until steaming but not boiling. Remove from heat and cover, so that the liquid remains warm.

When the potatoes are done (they should fall apart when stabbed with a fork), strain them and return them to the pot. Add the hot milk and scallions, butter, kale, and salt and pepper to taste. Mash with a potato masher until desired consistency (a few chunks in mashed potatoes add nice texture and diversity of flavor). If the potatoes are too dry, add more milk, but only in small portions, to avoid making the potatoes too watery.

*Note – if you’re making the salmon cakes, reserve a little over half of the mashed potatoes in the fridge. Otherwise, you’ll have to make more!

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