Thursday, June 05, 2008

Really Good Coleslaw, Delicatessen-Style

Summertime continues. I just posted a blog on my favorite potato salad (6/3/08). Now the other shoe drops: coleslaw.

Up North, coleslaw went with summer picnics and as a side dish to sandwiches. In the South there are additional roles; it's served with barbecue and even on hot dogs. While we might assume it's all-American, coleslaw is in fact of Dutch origin. 'Kool sla' in Dutch, pronounced, interestingly, cole slaw, simply means cabbage salad.

This is the better coleslaw I remember from my childhood, when tangy but not too creamy cabbage and carrot salad was best bought at a Jewish delicatessen because it eclipsed the glubby mayonnaise-laden, bland concoction of my mother, who otherwise generally was quite a good cook. My aunt learned the secret from a caterer she knew: finely sliced cabbage and grated carrot, white vinegar and sugar, Dijon mustard, limited mayonnaise, and plenty of marinating time. The recipe serves six as a side dish, with left-overs.

Delicatessen-Style Coleslaw Tim

1 medium head of green cabbage*, or 3/4 of a large head
1 medium carrot
2 tablespoons mayonnaise ('real' preferred)
2 teaspoons Dijon style mustard
5 tablespoons white vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1-1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste

Discard any tough outer cabbage leaves. Cut the head in half through the stem and cut it again into quarters. Set a quarter on a board and cut away the core and any big ribs on the exterior. Shred cabbage finely crosswise. This can be done with a sharp knife on a cutting board, but it's easiest in a food processor fitted with a thin slicer blade or using a mandolin. Place the shredded cabbage in a very large bowl for easy mixing, and shred the rest of the cabbage. Peel the carrot and shred, using a grater or the food processor fitted with a grater blade. Add it to the cabbage. Add the mayonnaise, mustard, sugar, vinegar, pepper and salt. Mix well. It will be dry at first. Let it sit 15 or 20 minutes, mixing from time to time, until the cabbage softens and the juices increase. Taste and adjust salt or vinegar or sugar as desired. Coleslaw is best if allowed to chill for a half hour or more, or even up to several days, covered. Taste before serving and adjust seasoning if needed.


* Although not traditional, spectacularly beautiful coleslaw can be made using red cabbage rather than green. It serves well on a holiday buffet table.

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