So let's talk straight about all the things that can go wrong with a coleslaw recipe, the things that so easily and all too often do go wrong with a coleslaw recipe, turning out cole slaw like this:
Too soggy, too watery. (How many coleslaw recipes are victims of this?)
Too raw and well, cabbage-y.
Too bland and unseasoned. (Such a waste of good cabbage, these coleslaw recipes!)
Too much dressing which translates into "too many calories". (How many coleslaw recipes turn out to be complete disasters, calorie-wise?)
Like a plain-jane slaw with not enough going on, but some times, a cole slaw that just tries too hard, with too much going on. (Poor sad things, these coleslaw recipes.)
This coleslaw recipe fixes all those cole slaw problems! (Maybe we should put the Cooks Illustrated folks onto the European debt crisis.) This recipe is all about technique. (You could even apply the steps to your own favorite recipe.) There are two extra steps:
First, briefly cooking the cabbage and broccoli in the microwave with sugar and salt. Don't skip the sugar and salt, otherwise the extra step doesn't work.
Second, then spinning out excess liquid in a salad spinner. How much extra liquid, you ask? Six tablespoons. Wow, I had no idea!
But this recipe is also all about flavor. It's simple and traditional in all the right ways, yet fresh and updated in others. It's got just a bare touch of sweetness. The first time I made it, a twelve-year old went back for seconds and thirds, then happily carried home the leftovers. "This cole slaw is sooo good!" she said again and again. The next time I made it, her eyes lit up to see it on the table. I live to see eyes lighting up like that!
WORD DANCING: IS IT COLESLAW? COLE SLAW? Or is it just SLAW? So I've been in a little debate, trying to figure out what to call this cabbage and broccoli salad – it seems there might be regional differences. So if you have a preferred way to call a salad made from grated cabbage, I'd love to know, leave a comment if that's alright. (Don't we just love "word dancing"? And who the heck was "cole"?)
RECIPE for MIGHTY PERFECT CABBAGE & BROCCOLI COLESLAW
Time to table: 60 minutes
Makes 4 cups, easy to multiply for larger quantities
1/4 cup (55g) apple cider vinegar (see TIPS)
2 tablespoons (18g) vegetable oil (no olive oil, please, see TIPS)
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 pound cabbage (see TIPS), grated on large holes of a box grater
1/4 pound broccoli crown, cut in tiny florets, stem peeled and chopped small
1/4 cup (55g) sugar
1 teaspoon (15g) table salt
1 large carrot, peeled and grated with box grater
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Salt to taste
Up to 2 teaspoons additional sugar, to taste
Up to 2 teaspoons additional vinegar, to taste
DRESSING In a small bowl, mix the dressing ingredients. Place in the freezer for 15-30 minutes or just until the slaw is ready. (Why the freezer? I have the idea it's just to begin the cool-down process.)
COLESLAW Place the cabbage, broccoli, 1/4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon salt in a large, microwave-safe bowl. (The combination of sugar, salt and heat are what help the cabbage express so much liquid.) Cover with a plate and cook on high in the microwave for 1 minute. Stir well, cover with the plate and cook for 30 - 60 seconds until the cabbage has become a little wilted and reduced in volume by about a third. Transfer to a salad spinner and spin for 10 - 20 seconds, expressing excess liquid (see TIPS).
Stir in carrot, parsley and dressing. Taste and add salt, sugar and vinegar to taste.
Chill for 15 minutes or until ready to serve. Keeps well for several days without getting soggy or soft, it helps to turn the storage container every so often.
ALANNA's TIPS & KITCHEN NOTES
APPLE CIDER VINEGAR I've started using Bragg's Apple Cider Vinegar. It's more expensive but I love its gentleness and apple-y-ness.
WHY NO OLIVE OIL? Because it will thicken and coagulate in the cold.
CABBAGE Cook's Illustrated "insists" in their own inimitable way that fresh cabbage tastes better – and I agree. But I've also had great luck refreshing a bag of cabbage slaw mix from the grocery store by soaking it in ice water for 5 or 10 minutes. Now that may seem counter-intuitive to re-hydrate the slaw and then cook it in the microwave in order to remove excess water. But I think it would work just fine, I really do – and would also cut down on the prep time for this salad, which strikes me as a long while.
EXCESS LIQUID Wow! This is a great technique to avoid watery coleslaw. Both times, putting the cabbage through a salad spinner yielded 6 tablespoons – SIX TABLESPOONS! – water.
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