Texans Love Their Coleslaw

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When I first moved to Texas, from Louisiana, and tasted coleslaw I did not care for it.  It always seemed too runny, too tangy or too slimy.  It actually wasn't until I visited Vancouver, Canada that I found a coleslaw I thought delicious.  Since then, I've tasted many wonderful versions of coleslaw and it is now one of my favorite sides.

The name, coleslaw (cold salad) originated in The Netherlands and from the Dutch words "kool sla".  Kool means cabbage and sla means salad.  Originally, this dish was probably served hot and it wasn't until a deli owner named Richard Hellmann (yes, of Hellmann's mayonnaise) in the early 1900's New York City popularized it as an accompaniment to his sandwiches.  It has since become an American classic.

In Texas, coleslaw is thought of as a typical side for barbecue.  I usually think of coleslaw as the crunch in a fish taco and love it when it's topped with a spicy chipolte dressing in a fresh corn tortilla.  It also makes a Texas-sized burger a little more flavorful and when mixed with sliced, picked jalapeños, then also a little more spicy!  

Coleslaw is rich in nutrients (vitamins A and C, calcium and iron) and fiber, contains the healthful benefits of raw food, is a low fat food and is filling and satisfying.  

One of the secrets of creating the tastiest coleslaw is to be patient and invest a couple of days to ensure the best flavor and the right consistency.  Prepare your dressing and let it sit overnight before marinating the vegetables and cabbage for an additional 24 hours.  If you prefer the crunchier version of coleslaw then mix the marinade, let sit for a day, and then toss with the cabbage right before serving.  

Another option would be to make your own mayonnaise for the dressing.  There is no comparison between commercial mayonnaise and a homemade mayonnaise or aioli (mayonnaise made with fresh garlic).   I use a Braun hand mixer to make mine.  This technique was passed along to me by my friend Patricia Fontanals, originally from Barcelona, who taught me an almost fool-proof method for making mayonnaise.  In case you didn't know, the Spanish eat almost everything with homemade mayonnaise or aioli (like we do with ketchup).  In a tall, narrow cylinder, or the one that comes with the Braun mixer, add one egg, 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 to 3 tablespoons canola or sunflower oil, the juice of half a lemon, 1/2 teaspoon of white wine vinegar and salt and pepper.  Place the hand mixer all the way into the cylinder and turn it on.  Gradually lift the mixer as the contents turn white and the mayonnaise thickens.  Add salt and pepper as needed.

To add spice, a freshly diced jalapeno should do it.  For even more spice, one or two, chopped chipolte peppers in adobo sauce, it also adds color, will make just hot enough to produce tears.  In other areas of the country red pepper flakes or a few dashes of Tabasco are used to lively up the coleslaw.  Chile sauce and mint may be added to make it spicy and Asian.  Adding a little cilantro would be appropriate for either the Mexican version or the Asian version.  

So, this brings me back to the best coleslaw I ever had!  A fabulous restaurant in Vancouver called Joe Fortes Oyster Bar & Grill was the place that changed my palate forever about coleslaw.  Delicately placed atop this flavorful, tender coleslaw were six perfectly breaded fried oysters (another Texas favorite).  Even after traveling through the culinary wonders of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, THIS is one of the dishes I remember most.  

Joe Fortes Oyster Bar & Grill Coleslaw

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 or 3 drops Tabasco sauce
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoon ground celery seed
  • 4 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1 small cabbage, shredded (can mix purple and green cabbage)
  • 2 carrots, peeled and julienned
  • 1 small sweet onion, finely sliced
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. Mix and let marinate for 24 hours.

Trish's Fish Taco Coleslaw

Ingredients:

  • 1 small thinly shredded cabbage (both green and purple)
  • 1/2 cup homemade aioli mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon adobo sauce (from the canned chipolte peppers in adobo sauce)
  • 1 fresh jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely diced
  • 1/4 cup freshly chopped cilantro
  • 2 teaspoon ground celery seed
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. Mix and let marinate for 24 hours.
  2. Serve inside warm corn tortilla topped with shrimp and avocado.

Asian Coleslaw

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup seasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 head of sliced Napa cabbage
  • 1 cup sliced Chinese cabbage
  • 1 cup sliced Bok Choy
  • 1 16-ounce bag carrots, shredded
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped (you can substitute parsley if desired)

Preparation:

  1. In large bowl, use a wire whisk or a fork to mix the rice vinegar, vegetable oil, sesame oil, and salt.
  2. Add the cabbage, carrots, green onions, and cilantro.
  3. Toss gently until the dressing is evenly distributed over the vegetables.
  4. Cover tightly and refrigerate until it is time to serve.

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