A study in slaws

by JAMES DeWAN August 08. 2017 11:36PM
Though most slaws you'll encounter are shredded with a grater or food processor, a sharp knife makes a beautifully thin julienne of myriad vegetables. (Michael Tercha/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

No doubt you’ve been firing up the grill these many weeks, charring yourself some luscious hunks of bloody, bloody meat.

In all seriousness, though, beloved peeps, unless you’re suffering from a bit of the lycanthropy, you’re going to need something more than flesh to satisfy your pangs.

And that’s where the mighty slaw comes in.

Oh, slaw, with your tangy crunch and bumptiously high-fibered nutritional content, why have we not feted you previously?

Why you need to learn this: Sure, slaw’s origins are not in this country (not unlike most of ours), but you’d still be hard-pressed to find a family barbecue in the U.S. of A. without at least one bowl brimming with the stuff. Without slaw, it’s just not a barbecue; it’s just a bunch of woebegone werewolves wishing for more napkins.

The steps you take: Now, of course the most common kind of slaw is of the cole-ish kind. In fact, the word “coleslaw” is simply a transliteration from the Dutch “koolsla,” which, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the foremost authority on the origin of English language words, is a form of “kool-salade” or cabbage salad.

Now, when most of us think of coleslaw, we’re thinking of shredded (or chiffonade of) cabbage dressed with a creamy mayonnaise dressing. (Unless you’re from North Carolina, in which case, your cabbage might be diced and tossed with a vinegar-based dressing.)

Cabbage aside, though, if we recall that the “slaw” means “salad,” our eyes are now open to a whole world of possibilities. Anything you can make into a salad, you can make into a slaw. In fact, what even is the difference?

I’d say that while all slaws are salads, not all salads are slaws. For one thing, salad ingredients can come in all shapes and sizes, but slaw ingredients generally are shredded or minced. Also, show of hands: How many of you have ordered a salad and asked for the dressing on the side? Slaws are generally dressed.

If you want to make a slaw then, all you have to do is get some very fresh vegetables (It’s farmers market season, kids!!!), render them into small bits, coat them lightly with a delicious dressing and, as my fine young son used to bellow on the tennis court: “Blammo!”

We have achieved slaw.

One word about that “rendering into small bits” part: If you’re going to cut the ingredients by hand, julienne or small dice are nice sizes. Alternately, you can run everything over a box grater or through the shredding attachment on your food processor. “Large holes or small,” I can hear your fretting from here. Remember, this is why your ancestors came here from those other oppressive, proper-grater-hole-size-demanding countries. Like Canada.

If you’re using vegetables like broccoli or cauliflower, break them into the smallest florets you can manage.

Generally speaking, slaws are defined by their main ingredient or ingredients. I tend not to use more than three, only because it takes up too much space on the menu. Think broccoli, raisin and carrot, or carrot, snow pea and radish, or radish, jicama and apple, or apple, fennel and cabbage, or cabbage, carrot and scallion, or scallion, edamame and bacon.

OK, this is getting nutsy, fast. But, see what I’m doing? I’m just riffing on ingredients that taste good raw (except the bacon), then putting them together all crazylike.

Or, you can fancy up your basic coleslaw by combining your cabbage with just about anything else.

Now, let’s get some ideas for dressings. All of the following are acid-based (vinegar, citrus), but they also can be stirred into mayonnaise for a creamier slaw. Also, remember that everything needs salt to taste:

Asian-style 1: Equal parts soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, optional brown sugar; garlic, ginger, sesame seeds and/or wasabi paste to taste.

Asian-style 2: Two parts lime juice to one part each fish sauce, brown sugar, optional peanuts or peanut butter; garlic, cilantro, mint and salt to taste.

South American (think “chimichurri”): Equal parts cilantro and parsley finely chopped with garlic to taste; stir into 2-to-1 blend of extra-virgin olive oil and sherry or red wine vinegar; oregano and red pepper flakes to taste.

Indian-style: Equal parts lime juice, oil, shredded coconut, peanuts and cilantro; garam masala and a pinch of turmeric to taste.

North Carolina (Piedmont): Equal parts ketchup, cider vinegar and sugar; black pepper and optional hot sauce or cayenne pepper to taste.

Now, go make some slaw.

James DeWan is a culinary instructor at Kendall College in Chicago and the author of “Prep School,” a collection of his columns from the Chicago Tribune.

An Indian-style slaw features finely julienned carrots, pea pods, cabbage and jicama, garnished with shredded coconut, peanuts and cilantro. (Michael Tercha/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

Caesar slaw

My friend and colleague, chef Wook Kang, featured this recently on the dinner menu at the Dining Room at Kendall College.

Prep: 30 minutes. Makes: 12 servings

12 ounces Romaine lettuce, chiffonade

12 ounces radicchio, chiffonade

12 ounces frisee, chiffonade

12 ounces Caesar slaw dressing _see recipe below)

6 ounces Parmesan, grated

12 ounces bacon lardons, crisped

2 ounces Italian parsley, finely minced

Toss three lettuces with dressing. Serve, topped with grated Parmesan, bacon and parsley.

DRESSING:

Prep: 30 minutes. Chill: 30 minutes. Makes: about 1 3/4 cups

4 ounces Parmesan, grated

1 shallot, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 ounces cider vinegar

1 ounce lemon juice

1 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon hot sauce, optional

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 ounce anchovy paste

Salt and pepper to taste

2 teaspoons finely minced parsley



In a large bowl, whisk all ingredients until combined. Chill 30 minutes before using.

Nutrition information per serving: 329 calories, 28 g fat, 7 g saturated fat, 39 mg cholesterol, 8 g carbohydrates, 1 g sugar, 12 g protein, 942 mg sodium, 2 g fiber


Food

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