Ramp Champ

Champ is an Irish dish of creamy mashed potatoes and scallions. Colcannon is an Irish dish of mashed potatoes and cabbage or kale. What follows features ramps in the scallion role, with cabbage invited along, too—I like how the sweetness of the cooked cabbage sidles up next to the mellowed-out cooked ramps. We don’t call this Ramp Colcannon because Ramp Champ is obviously the better name (it's also our pub trivia team’s default moniker). A little grating of lemon zest is nice, as is fresh dill, but don’t go too crazy, like I did, or they will overpower the ramps. Yes, correct, overpower the ramps. For a vegan version, use tons of olive oil and either non-dairy milk or a generous splash of reserved potato-cooking water.

You may serve ramp champ as-is, or with a fried egg on top. The night that we dug up these ramps, we griddled fatty, flavorful burgers seasoned with minced raw ramps. I think the only way to outdo that combo is to fry an egg and serve all three together: patty, egg, and ramp champ. 

Makes about six servings

  • 1-1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled, cut into 2-inch chunks
  • As many ramps as you like or have—about 30 would be ideal—cleaned, roots trimmed
  • One to four tablespoons butter or extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • ½ medium green cabbage, cut into shreds about a centimeter in diameter
  • 1-2 cups of milk, sour cream, or half-and-half
  • 1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme, dill, or parsley, optional
  • ¼ teaspoon finely grated zest, optional
  • Lots of salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put the potatoes in a large pot and cover them with cold water. Add lots of salt, cover, and bring them to a boil over high heat. Immediately uncover the pot and lower the heat to a simmer. When a fork easily pierces a potato chunk, drain the potatoes and mash them up (I like them chunky, with an irregular texture). Put the lid on there to keep them warm.

Meanwhile, cut the white root ends of the ramps into segments about a centimeter long. Roughly chop the leaves of the ramps and set them aside.

Melt a tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over medium heat and add the ramp roots. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they are aromatic and softened, about two to three minutes. Then add the chopped leaves and cook, stirring, until they are wilted. Season the ramps with salt and a little freshly ground black pepper. Scrape them into a bowl, wipe out the skillet if necessary, and return it to the heat. Melt another tablespoon of butter, add the cabbage, and cook until it’s soft and sweet, about ten minutes (it’s okay of the cabbage browns a little).

With a big wooden spoon, stir the cooked ramps and cabbage into the mashed potatoes. Add the remaining butter (if you like, and you should; ramp champ is at its best when it’s good and rich) along with the cooked ramps and cabbage and enough milk or half and half to make it smooth but not loose. Season the heck out of your ramp champ with more salt and black pepper. If you’re feeling edgy, add a little chopped fresh herbs or lemon zest, but don’t overdo it, or you’ll negate the ramps, and the ramps are the point.