Monday, November 22, 2010

The Divine Slaw

I'm not much of a recipe person. I learned to cook from my Nana, who measured things in pinches, dashes, and splashes. A dollop of this, a knob of that: it was very much a watch-and-learn experience. Still, before we leave the subject, I thought I might share my philosophy of slaw, along with a few recipes.

I was probably eight or nine before I found out it wasn't "cold slaw." Well, it was served cold, you see? So that's important - cole slaw should be cold slaw. That's for starters. Also, if you want to avoid the Slaw of Averages, you would do well to heed Murphy's Slaw, which states:

Don't put so much dressing on, for Lord's sake!

So there's that, as well.

We should always keep in mind that the slaw is there to complement the main course. If the ribs are James Brown, the slaw is Maceo Parker. See? The best slaws are simple, and allow the main course to shine. Cole slaw is a team player, which stands out by contrast. Less is more.

If you feel the slaw needs some dressing up, you might consider cosmetic adjustments, before you get too creative with it: a mix of red and green cabbage, or a red onion in place of a white. Even a sprinkle of fresh parsley might do the job, and show that you put your heart into it without altering the basic flavor. Think pearls with the black dress, or matching tie and handkerchief.

Or, fine... go ahead and load it up with jalapeƱo peppers, or walnuts, or pineapples, but don't say you weren't warned.


Basic Slaw Mix

1/2 green cabbage, cored and shredded
1/4 red cabbage, cored and shredded
1 chopped onion
1 large carrot, coarse-grated, shredded, julienned or what-have-you

It is my firm belief that cabbages should be shredded, with a knife. You shave the cabbage. My personal preference is to have the shreds no more than 2mm thick. I use a long, flexible "T.V. Knife," which I inherited, for this. Use your own judgement here. The mix of cabbage is also up to you: all green, all red, or a blend of the two will work. I choose based on appearance, and also, what I happen to have lying around. That's a factor too.


Slaw Dressing #1

1/2 cup horseradish sauce
1/2 cup mayonnaise
A splash of oil
Tablespoon Sugar

When using this dressing, put about half on the slaw mix, toss, and chill for two hours. Then check and see if it needs more. Add dressing to taste: remember Murphy's Slaw. You can vary the proportion of horseradish depending on how much you like it. I have made it with almost all horseradish for use on corned beef sandwiches or hot dogs. A bit of prepared wasabi can give it a little extra "nose" as well. Your mileage may vary.


Slaw Dressing #2

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup vinegar
Splash of oil
Pinch of salt
Celery seeds, to taste


Slaw Dressing #3

2/3 cup ketchup
1/3 cup cider or wine vinegar
Splash of oil
Pinch of salt
Tablespoon sugar
Celery seeds, to taste

When using these dressings, toss with slaw mix, chill for two hours, then toss again, pour off the excess, and chill. The excess can be saved and reused, should you care to.

There is nothing fancy here, which is as it should be. Slaw should be simple: fresh veggies, tossed with a simple dressing: tossed with, not swimming in. I have made all three of these many times and guarantee one thing: people eat them. That's something.


The following slaw is a meal in itself.
It breaks all the above rules, which just goes to show you.

Asian Slaw

To the basic slaw mix, add any or all of the following:

sliced grilled pork
sliced grilled chicken
sliced surimi
cooked shrimp
fried tofu
sliced red or green bell peppers
cilantro or fresh basil or fresh mint
crushed peanuts

Toss the lot with Pad Thai sauce. I just buy a couple of containers from the local Thai place. They usually charge me a dollar for two or three, which is plenty. Chill. Top with chopped scallions before serving. Serve with Sriracha if you like. I like.

And there you have it. Just in time for Thanksgiving leftovers. Need I remind you that cole slaw goes really well with a turkey club sandwich? I think not. Now we are all equal before the slaw. You can thank me later. Enjoy.

And go easy on the dressing, for Lord's sake.

Very Truly Yours,




Bossy Betty said...

Oh great. I had already consumed a glass of dressing before you told me to go easy on it.

The ketchup one is interesting, but being a purist, I'll go with dressing number one.

Lori said...

While I love recipe's I am really not a recipe person either because I too learned to cook/bake in pinches, dashes and splashes and really it's how I cook/ bake now...and rarely can I stick to a single recipe. :)

I too thought it was cold wonder how many of us thought this? :) These recipe's look divine...I have made similar but will have to try these.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

Cricket said...

Hi Betty - The purists in North Carolina take the ketchup recipe as orthodoxy. Really, it's worth a try, if nothing else... Lexington Barbecue Slaw, which, as you might imagine, goes really well with barbecue. It also spices up well. It's much better than it looks like it would be.

Hi Lori - Actually, when I bake it's always by a recipe. For some reason, when I'm baking, my usually excellent memory vanishes, and I find myself checking on my zucchini bread, and noticing two zucchini laughing at me from the kitchen counter. Oops.

Happy Thanksgiving to you, as well.

Hilary said...

Recipe Day at the slawter house..

I think your first three recipes sound pretty wonderful.. less so for the Asian Slaw. I might just find myself searching through your blog the next time I feel compelled to make some coleslaw. You are, after all the king of slaw... Nat King Coleslaw. ;)

lime said...

dressing #2 appeals to me most. simple and yummy sounding. can't stand horseradish and not a big fan of mayo though i can tolerate it in slaw if the stuff isn't swimming in it. but dressing #2...yeah, that sounds yummy.

ds said...

Turkey, coleslaw and "Russian dressing" makes for an awesome sandwich.

Slaw variation #1 sounds familiar, and delicious (love the thought of adding fresh herbs, too. Yum!). Thanks!

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

CiCi said...

Great line about slaw being a team player. I don't follow recipes, for me, they are just there to give me an idea and then I throw together my version of the original recipe. Funny you thought it was cold slaw when you were a kid. We all thought it was cold slaw. Makes perfect sense. Oh man, I never heard about putting horseradish sauce in the slaw sauce. Now you got my attention. Oh man again, you make your own corned beef sandwiches. Dang. Can we move in with you guys? Not really, we don't want to use the M word again. Thanks for sharing these recipe ideas. Awesome. I wish hubby liked cole slaw. But nothing stops me from making some for me. Hey, more for me.

Unknown said...

Love the variety of cole slaw recipes Porcupine, and I too, as a child, thought it was "cold" and not "cole" ... which is also great on a burger.

Sandra said...

I will never look at "cold" slaw quite the same way again. All well said, and thought provoking. And I love the idea of the "garbage" slaw at the end. I'll definitely try that -- we like one-dish meals.

Anonymous said...

I love slaw, but I confess I've only made it from scratch once in my life. You've shamed me into trying again - thanks for the recipes. And you college girlfriend from the previous post...I thought I was overly sensitive, but she has me beat by a mile! I hope for her sake she was able to balance it out!

Smoked Recipes said...

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