The thermometer is climbing toward 90 so tonight the only heat source I’m turning on today will be outside on the grill. I’ve got some chicken thighs brining in the fridge, took a cue from Gordon and started my own dill pickles this morning, and picked up some cabbage for one of my favorite summer side dishes: coleslaw. This dish always make a great accompaniment to such Jewish deli classics as reubens or pastrami sandwiches. It also inspires a lot of controversy, namely… to mayonnaise or not to mayonnaise. Mayonnaise seems to be a long running debate among Jews in general. You often hear mayonnaise dismissed as goyisha food, but I have also heard that Jews invented it. This rumor seems to have originated from the fact the Hellmann’s (or Best Foods for us west coasters) brand mayonnaise was created at a NYC deli, and while I haven’t been able to confirm it, Hellmann sure sounds like a Jewish name. At any rate, despite my father’s protests, I am a mayo-on-the-coleslaw girl.
more after the jump
Coleslaw is one of those items that a recipe can only be somewhat helpful, because I find so much of it is “to taste”. I started my coleslaw experiments earlier this summer beginning with the trusty Cooks Illustrated cookbook. I ended up not really liking their dressing, but the invaluable advice they gave involves wilting the cabbage. Typically, after you have dressed coleslaw the cabbage starts extruding water and you are left with runny watered down dressing and inedible leftovers. Salting the cabbage ahead of time eliminates a lot of this water while keeping the crunch in place. The other fun thing about coleslaw is that it give me the opportunity to use my most favorite kitchen gadget, the mandoline (or v-slicer). I have the Swissmar Borner and it was the best $40 I have ever spent. So after shredding my cabbage with the v-slicer (you can also buy it pre-shredded) I toss it with plenty of salt, pack it into a colander and let it sit in the sink to drain for a couple of hours. Don’t worry about the salt, because after it is wilted, rinse it thoroughly with water and then squeeze it out in a clean dish towel and toss with thinly sliced red onion. I then mix together mayonnaise and rice vinegar, and season with dry mustard, a little sugar, salt and pepper. This is truly one of those eyeball recipes, that depends on your personal taste.