The First Slaw

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Deciding on a first blog post is hard. I’ve envisioned epic showpieces, ones conveying my hopes for the site and the inspiration that drove me here. I’ve pondered genius recipes to create, ones with ingredients and techniques to showcase some porn-a-licious photography. I’ve hemmed and hawed. It’s the kind of pressure that can gig you to a dead stop in the middle of the road. Then my moment of clarity broke the horizon. It’s a blog named SLAW! Right! Now, follow me to other side of the road.

Slaw in My World

I am a slaw enthusiast. I enjoy it many times a week. It’s important. So much so that I won’t order some things if slaw isn’t available, like fried chicken or hot dogs. Slaw is a food group with expansive potential. But don’t get the wrong idea. This isn’t the All Slaw, All the Time Blog. (Although I would follow that blog.) I’ll share many thoughts on slaw, and some recipes, but slaw is just one of many threads.

I make each batch of slaw according to my mood and the meal. Right now it’s early summer and cabbage is coming into the markets around Asheville. It’s tender stuff. And sweet. Like eating young cauliflower. Cabbage this sweet and delicate calls for a light hand, dressing-wise. I know just the recipe.

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Cabbage Salad

Makes about 4 cups

This is my friend Dana’s recipe. She makes the simplest slaw on earth. It’s affectionately called Mother’s Cabbage Salad, named for her Minnesota-transplanted-to-South Carolina momma. This is as plain and simple as it gets—a blend of cabbage and mayonnaise and not much else except onion powder, which is the key flavoring. I swear I swooned the first time Dana served it. Perversely, it’s a really hard recipe for me to make. My routine slaw, or my slaw routine, is a ritual of improvisation—mixing and tasting until I hit the seems-right blend of mayonnaise + vinegar + sugar + seasonings. For Dana’s Mother’s Cabbage Salad I have to induce the focus of a firewalker to keep on the straight and narrow. The reward is worth the clench time—an elemental salad showcasing the pure flavor of cabbage.


HUNTING-GATHERING

CABBAGE stars here so it needs to be excellent. If you can score tender early summer cabbage you’re in for a treat. Fall cabbage, which tends to be denser, can have a nice radishy bite. A heads that seems light for its size usually indicates a tender and juicy cabbage  ONION POWDER has a concentrated, almost toasty onion flavor. It’s a key ingredient. Substitute 1/4 teaspoon onion salt and cut the kosher salt to 1/2 teaspoon  You have to use DUKE’S MAYONNAISE to make a perfect rendition of this recipe. I know. Everyone waxes poetic over the stuff, and for good reason. I’ll hold my waxing for other times. If Duke’s is out, use any tart mayo that does NOT contain sugar. Trader Joe’s makes a decent Duke’s stand in.

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Making this recipe I ate the stalks (cook’s treat). Then I munched some big-ribbed leaves. Then I got out the ranch dressing and lunched on a quarter of the head.

 Ingredients

1-1/2–2 pounds cabbage (medium-large head)

2/3 cup Dukes mayonnaise (or one that’s sugar-free)

1–2 tablespoons milk, cream, or buttermilk

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Onion powder, to taste (1/8–1/4 teaspoon)

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Instructions
  • Chop or shred the cabbage to your liking. I cut really tender cabbage it into chunky dice, tougher leaves more finely.
  • Transfer the cabbage to a large mixing bowl—give yourself room to toss it.
  • In a measuring cup, combine the mayonnaise, milk, salt, pepper, and onion powder.
  • Pour the dressing over the cabbage and toss until well combined—the volume will reduce greatly. I use a spatula and really press and mash the dressing into the leaves.
  • Let the slaw sit for 10-15 minutes and then taste it for salt. If it seems dry, add a tablespoon more mayonnaise.
  • Refrigerate the slaw for at least 30 minutes before serving (a couple of hours is better) to allow the subtle flavors to blend and develop. And if you can plan ahead, follow Dana’s instructions to marinate the slaw overnight in the fridge. If  it’s too milky the next day, drain off some of the liquid and add a dab of mayo to pump up the dressing before serving.

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Chris Bryant

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