The baker/writer/teacher and bread maven, Peter Reinhart, once ran a small restaurant and wrote a cookbook with the recipes he served there. This cookbook was called Sacramental Magic in a Small Town Cafe,, and it contained the perfect coleslaw recipe. There is nothing really unusual about this slaw, which is quite traditional, and has no secret ingredient of any kind. It is a classic American coleslaw of the mayo type, but the proportions are perfect and fail safe.
My daughter had a friend whose father consistently made the most satisfying coleslaw, and he told me that it came from this little book. Before I had these ratios to refer to, I made a similar kind of coleslaw. I didn't have a rule of thumb -I went by eye and nibble, and added or subtracted ingredients at whim. This earlier coleslaw of mine was never horrible, but sometimes it was much nicer than other times. Now my standard coleslaw is "just right" all the time, and never the source of disharmony in a meal. There are many other perfectly good slaws-including the classic vinagrette type. I like a lot of them, as well as numerous other cooked and raw cabbage dishes. And I love fennel slaw. But if you want the classic diner-side coleslaw, this is the recipe for you.
There are some foods which absolutely beg for this sort of slaw-on-the-side, in my view. These include homemade baked beans, fried fish and chips, fried or spicy steamed shrimp, pulled pork, fried chicken, and main dish chowders. It is great with other diner-esque dishes, hamburgers, meatloaf, liver and onions, grilled cheese, mac and cheese- the lot. Its cool creaminess and accompaying crunch perfectly set off that which is hot, soft ,chewy,fatty and/or gooey. It is insanely wonderful with barbequed ribs, and very nice indeed with a pastrami sandwich on rye. I like it heaped on a split and fluffed baked potato in its jacket, for any easy, cheap supper.
Personally, I prefer to make my slaw with cabbage I have shredded finely with a knife. I have had it, however, with grated cabbage, and it is good that way too.Once I made it with cabbage cut into 1/2" squares, and it was nice and looked somehow fancier.
To make P.R.'s perfect slaw, you need:
1 large cabbage, shredded or as you like
finely diced onion 1/2 cup
mayo (Hellman's, not homemade, for this recipe) 1 1/2 cups
cider vinegar 1/4 cup
granulated sugar 1/2 cup
freshly ground black pepper 1 tsp
salt to taste
Mix everything together, and let it sit from 2 hours to overnight, chilling. Taste for salt and pepper before serving. Keeps 2 days in fridge. Then it goes watery, and isn't as nice. This is the fifth recipe ever added to Volume One of my little notebook of recipes to keep. I've been making it a long time, and it has never failed me.
Note: A couple of new food blogs to check out: Try Little Bouffe. If you thought your kitchen was inadequate, see what she does with no real kitchen at all. And have a look at June's brand new Bread,Water, Salt, Oil.., for some good food writing with a real sense of place.
Noodge: If you are thinking about submitting a post to the Something Out of Nothing event, but have not yet done so, please send me the permalink by email today. I'll be starting to work on a roundup tomorrow.