This recipe is very tenuously based on one from Vladimir Estragon (the late Geoffrey Stokes), whose delightful, evocative writing appeared in the Village Voice for many years.
The Irish bacon for this recipe came from the Butcher Block in Sunnyside, Queens, which you read about in Serious Eats New York.
- 5 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
- 1/2 pound Irish bacon, chopped into 1/2-inch or so squares
- 1 large onion, sliced thin
- 1 stick unsalted butter, divided
- 1/2 small cabbage, outer leaf removed and sliced thin
- 1/2 cup half and half or milk
- Splash neutral cooking oil, optional
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
In a large pot, cover the potatoes with cold salted water. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and cook until tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
While the potatoes are cooking, add the bacon in a 9 to 12-inch ovenproof pan. (No plastic handles!) Add a small splash of oil, if the bacon is lean. Cook over medium to medium-low heat until lightly browned with crisped edges, 10 minutes or less. Set aside.
Wipe out the pan with a paper towel. No need to be overly thorough. Add 1/2 stick butter and melt over medium to medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent, 10 or so minutes.
Add the cabbage to the onion, toss thoroughly with the onion, and cover. Cook until cabbage is tender, about 20 minutes. Stir occasionally, lowering the heat if the onions are browning too much. (A little browning is okay, but well-done onions will overwhelm the potatoes.)
Drain the potatoes and return them to the pot. Dry, shaking the pot, over high heat for about ten seconds. Turn off the heat. Add 2 tablespoons butter and the half and half, and mash—by hand—to your liking. I prefer a few lumps myself—remember, this is a country dish. And salt and pepper to taste, then add even more pepper!
Dump the cabbage-onion mix into the potatoes and mix thoroughly. Return the bacon to the pan, distributing more or less evenly. Scoop the potatoes on top, spreading to cover bacon. Don’t smooth down too much.
Dot the top with remaining butter (you may not need all of it). Run under the broiler until the top is nicely browned. Let cool a bit before serving.