A week or so ago my post provided the details of a crawfish boil in Silicon Valley. For that great event, my daughter-in-law asked me to make coleslaw. I call her the “Salad Queen” because she whips up the most delicious salads on a moment’s notice, but she claimed that coleslaw was not something she liked to make. I confess that I’m not a big fan of most coleslaw, either. That’s because they often contain the core of the cabbage head, the cabbage is in big chunks with the heavy taste of cabbage, and the salad is swimming in runny mayonnaise.
Years ago I learned the first important lesson for coleslaw from my younger daughter when she was only about ten years old. She was assigned to do the cabbage chopping for a family gathering. We thought she would be finished in just a few minutes, but a half hour later she was still chopping and the cabbage was as fine as I had ever seen it. She had also removed the core of the cabbage before she started the project. Everyone loved one of her first cooking projects.
The second lesson comes from a consideration of the origins of the word, coleslaw. It is derived from the Danish word, koolsla, meaning cabbage (cole) salad ( sla, a contraction of salade). The point of all that is you can use any kind of cabbage or even cabbage relatives you want (especially shredded Brussels sprouts, but also broccoli, rabe, or cauliflower) , and you can put anything else that catches your fancy in the salad. Apples, carrots, celery, and chopped nuts are among the most common additives.
The third lesson for me is that a little mayonnaise goes a long way – much farther than you think. In recent times, I always add less mayonnaise than I think the dish needs. That includes tuna salad, sandwiches, and coleslaw In every instance what I have learned is that less is better, and you can always add more. Of course, homemade mayonnaise is better than bottled, and it doesn’t take too much extra time to make. Another option is not to use mayonnaise at all; freshly made vinaigrette is a refreshing substitute.
For the crawfish boil, I decided to use napa (Chinese) cabbage and red cabbage along with red onion, carrot, bell pepper, and celery for the basic salad. I used vinaigrette with a shot of sesame oil for the dressing. Here is the recipe.
1 large head, napa cabbage, cored, sliced and chopped very finely
1 small head red cabbage, cored, sliced and chopped very finely
1 medium red onion, diced
1 large carrot, peeled, grated, and chopped finely
- 1 bell pepper, seeded, ribs removed, and diced
- 3 stalks celery, diced
- 2 teaspoons celery seed
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon prepared mustard, preferably Dijon
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon granulated sugar
- 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon sesame oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, mustard, garlic powder, and sugar.
- While whisking continuously, drizzle in the olive oil until completely incorporated.
- Stir in the sesame oil, and correct seasonings with salt and pepper
Dressing the Salad
- Pour only about half of the vinaigrette onto the coleslaw and gently stir in until the salad is completely dressed
- Add more dressing as needed, being especially careful not to use too much. The coleslaw should be moistened but not damp with dressing
- Refrigerate until ready to serve.