A Southern Inspiration – Classic American Cole Slaw
I know this may come as a bit of a shock but until recently I had never tried my hand at making a Classic American Style Cole Slaw. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I’ve never made any sort of slaw-esque summer salad. Over the past few years, I have spent countless hours in the kitchen, knife in hand, squinting, in an attempt to julienne a myriad of fruits and veggies and render variations on the classic.
I’m not sure what caused me to steer away from the simple summer staple when planning countless warm weather meals. Perhaps, I was just completely uninspired by the mayo-laden store bought variety that is typically found at backyard BBQs across America – you know the kind I mean – white gray with flecks of purple and orange, watery and bland, funny aftertaste… not exactly the type of dish I seek to recreate at home.
All of this changed when Dustin and I went down to Nashville in March. True to foodie form I spent the weeks before the trip searching online for great local spots to eat. I wanted to sample a broad cross-section of what Nashville had to offer. Using the Nashville Scene’s 2010 Best of Nashville Reader’s Poll and Local Yelp forums I devised a must try list. On the short-list were some great ethnic restaurants including a fabulous West-Nashville Korean spot, a great Tortilleria on the south side of the city, and, one of my personal favorites (and the inspiration for this post) a “hot fish” joint called “East Side Fish” located in a small hole-in-the-wall restaurant in East Nashville.
I will admit when we first walked into the small shack (that we almost drove past) that I was a bit apprehensive about eating there. Between the bars on the windows, and the sparse group of customers sitting on the stools that lined the small wall counters I was wondering if perhaps my researched has pointed us in entirely the wrong direction. True to Southern form when we reached the front of the line the cashier patiently guided up through the options available pointing out what ones might be best for first time hot fish eaters.
Still a bit wary, we settled on sharing a plate of fried catfish with small nuggets of fried okra, and – you guessed it – coleslaw. Holy Heavens to Betsy, you bet your bottom dollar this was not the coleslaw I grew up. While it was made with the smooth mayo base I was accustomed to, the Southern-style slaw was brightened by an strong underpinning of vinegar and a hit of herbal celery salt. With the way it highlighted the creaminess of the beautifully fried fish fillets I thought perhaps this slaw was worth giving a go in my own kitchen. So after inhaling the first plate, we bought a second serving.
Saveur Magazine devoted its entire June/July issue to Barbeque. Nestled in among the featured recipes was one for a traditional American coleslaw and I took it as my grand opportunity to try my hand at the classic. I will admit that in my attempt to push my own limits as an entertainer and create no fewer than seven dishes for this meal I actually conceded to buying store bought julienned veggies for the slaw. Given more time I’d give it a go by hand but it significantly reduced the amount of prep needed to execute the dish.
Tennessee-Style Cole Slaw (adapted from Saveur)
1/2 Cup High-Quality Mayonnaise
1/8 Cup Dijon Mustard
1/8 Cup Yellow Mustard
1/8 Cup Sugar
1/8 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
2 TSP Freshly Cracked Pepper
1 1/2 TSP Kosher Salt
1 TSP Celery Seeds
1 24 Oz Bag of Cole Slaw Mix (or One Med Head of Cabbage Julienned and One Julienned Carrot)
Mix dressing ingredients in a bowl adjust seasoning as needed – if you like your slaw with extra zing you can add extra vinegar. If you like a sweeter slaw you can turn up the volume on the sugar a bit. As always the salt and pepper measurements are approximate, season with salt and pepper to suit your taste.
Once the dressing is to your liking mix in the julienne until you feel you’ve achieved a good slaw to dressing ratio.
Eat and Enjoy!!