Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Coleslaw, reverse-engineered

This has a long history stretching all the way back to a trip to Philadelphia wherein Jocelyn and I went to a place called National Mechanics. It's a restaurant & bar in a big old church with weird taxidermy/lite-brite art all over the place. I really like it. And the food is great, although it's hard to serve a delicacy like frito pie without a dose of irony. I suspect they might be southerners though, and not just due to the frito pie, as Jocelyn recently went and ordered iced tea which arrived sweet. Normal for here, but not so much for in northern climes. Anyway, last time we were there, I ordered frito pie and also a side of coleslaw. Oh my goodness. That coleslaw. So delicious. Bright purple in a tangy, light-yet-creamy dressing, and absolutely nothing but cabbage in it. It's probably because the dressing was so good, but of course it is hard to duplicate after you've eaten it all. And when Jocelyn goes and asks on my behalf, they won't divulge their secrets. So last night we consulted, she suggested buttermilk to compose the bulk of the slaw matrix, and I tried reverse-engineering it. I think it's about right as far as the dressing goes but as you'll see, there are some issues surrounding the cabbage shredding technique.

Get a head of purple cabbage and a sharp knife. Actually, even better would be a good box shredder or a mandoline. I was too lazy to get these more appropriate tools out and I paid the price with chunky coleslaw. Don't make my mistake! Anyway, get your cabbage shredded and then chop the shreds (if necessary) into smaller lengths of about 1 inch. If you like long stringy coleslaw just leave it as is. But really--shred it finely. That was my main failing. In a big bowl mix up 1 cup buttermilk with 3 tablespoons mayonnaise (I use Dukes, bien entendu), 2 teaspoons sugar, 1 tablespoon cider vinegar, about 1 teaspoon salt and a bunch of fresh ground black pepper, at least another couple teaspoons worth. Taste this mixture at some point--you may want more sugar added. Dump in your finely shredded purple cabbage, mix it well and set aside for the flavors to meld up. This is actually where the shreddedness of your cabbage really comes into play--if it is very fine, then it will become soggy overnight and lose any delicious cabbagey crunch. If it is too thick (like mine!) it will look really pretty but be too thick to enjoy as proper slaw in time for dinner. However, the leftovers I have today for lunch are just about perfect as they have relaxed in the dressing overnight. So what to do? I don't know. It probably all comes down to taste, personal slaw preferences and how much you happen to like leftovers for lunch. Maybe shred half of it fine for dinner and half of it thickly for the next day? So many options. Also, just to open the door up even further, Jocelyn reports that they served it made with green cabbage the other day. Green! And, apparently, it was good. I like the simple stunner approach of a bright, entirely purple slaw served in a pretty bowl; it's the slaw equivalent of wearing a simple, perfectly cut, black strapless cocktail dress with ginormous diamond earrings. But if you wanted to you could use green instead, or a mixture, or add shredded carrots or something too. Not me though.

1 comment:

j.bird said...

Yay! I'm glad my buttermilk theory has merit. Also, good on the sugar. I forgot to mention the slight sweetness in the NM slaw. I don't even like coleslaw as a general rule, but I ate that stuff up like candy.

Also, I'd like to point out that green cabbage is perfectly acceptable and perhaps even better in summer, since it has that nice, cool color and lightness that red cabbage sometimes lacks.