Coleslaw, as we know it in all of its creamy goodness is a mid 18th century invention, as this is when mayonnaise was invented. Fannie Farmer recommends coleslaw in her cookbook Food and Cookery for the Sick and Convalescent (1904). The recipe was simple: select a heavy cabbage, remove the tough outer leaves, quarter the cabbage, slice thinly, soak in cold water, drain, dry and mix with cream salad dressing. James Beard devotes nearly 4 whole pages to various coleslaw recipes in his American Cookery. Now? Coleslaw is relegated to a plastic container on a shelf surrounded by other picnic salads. So, so sad.
What barbecue feast would be complete without this accompaniment? It’s simultaneously cool, crunchy, creamy, sweet and sour. It hits all the high notes of summer outdoor eating fare. Most people just pick up a tub from the deli or supermarket. But why? Why?!?!
Walk away from the deli counter. Go over to the vegetable section of the store. I believe it’s called the “produce” section. I have always wondered why. Anyway, grab a nice looking head of cabbage. Splurge on a carrot or two. Want more crunch? Add celery. Want more color? Add red cabbage (I didn’t in the recipe below, but you totally could). You are now three ingredients away from coleslaw and you likely have the other three ingredients at home: Italian Dressing, mayonnaise, and sugar. Slice the cabbage and celery, peel the carrots and mix. Done. Coleslaw.
It’s that easy. And, I firmly believe what you make will taste better and be cheaper per pound than what you would buy at the deli counter! Again, it’s completely customizable. Want onion? Add it. Want less mayo more vinegar? Add more dressing, less mayo. Like less dressing? Cut it down. Coleslaw, your way!!! No more buyer’s remorse on coleslaw. And the veggies will be crisp!! Not limp and, well, awful.
Serves 4-6 people
1 head of cabbage
2 carrots, peeled into ribbons or strands
2 stalks of celery, sliced thin (optional)
1/2 cup of your favorite mayonnaise
1/4 cup of your favorite Italian dressing
1-2 tablespoons sugar (to taste)
Cracked pepper (optional)
Remove the tough outer leaves of the cabbage. Quarter and slice thin. If you would like really crisp cabbage, place in cold water and soak for 30 minutes or until crisp.
Put the cabbage, carrots and celery in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the mayonnaise and Italian dressing. Add one tablespoon of the sugar to the mayonnaise mix. Taste and adjust the ratio of mayonnaise to dressing as needed. Add the remaining sugar if needed. Pour the mayonnaise mixture into the cabbage mixture and combine. Add pepper, if desired. Refrigerate until needed. Take care not to refrigerate too long, as the cabbage will go limp.
One caveat, if you decide to use purple cabbage, mixing ahead will lead to a purple colored dressing. Leave it out of the mix until closer to serving time.