Charred Jalapeño Coleslaw. Give me a half a cabbage and I can work a miracle. So can you. Really. A cabbage miracle. You may not think that cabbage is miraculous. You may even question yourself when you buy it. But summer is here and you figure you’ll probably have to make a stupid, boring coleslaw at some point for some dumb barbeque. Cabbage may not be sexy, but a properly stored cabbage seems to last forever in the refrigerator. So you buy it, just to be coleslaw ready, but you don’t feel good about it.
That’s because coleslaw has become a side dish that’s lost at sea. It’s fallen between the cracks and gone astray. Coleslaw gets pushed to the back of the buffet, next to the melba toast, where it sits, practically forgotten, waiting for a miracle. The funny thing is– cabbage miracles are easy to perform. Slaw doesn’t have to be a listless mulch of cabbage and carrots. Miracle Whip is not the miracle to which I refer.
Before we get to the coleslaw miracles lets discuss the coleslaw sins:
- Too much dressing. Whether it’s mayo, vinegar or fruit juice. A proper slaw should not swim in its dressing.
- Mushy slaw. Contrary to popular belief coleslaw doesn’t always “get better the next day”. In fact most slaws, when left too long in their dressing, simply die a limp and languid death. If you don’t believe me simply pick up a Styrofoam tub in the “deli” section of your grocery store. I guarantee it’s been sitting there long enough to prove my point. There are exceptions. Pickled slaws can get better with time spent stewing in the refrigerator. But honestly, I prefer most pickle trays to an overly pickled slaw.
- Too many ingredients. Slaw is not the time to clean out the refrigerator. Find another use for that week-old caviar, and don’t mix chutney with milk. My favorite slaws feature just three maybe four contrasting flavors bound together with a simple but flavorful dressing.
Once you know what not to do, the path to glorious coleslaw is easy to follow. Be creative. Brighten up the concept with seasonal fruit. Fresh herbs make the medley modern. Extras like cheese, nuts, and dried fruits can transform coleslaw too. Don’t forget, nobody says you have to use cabbage either. Sturdy lettuce such as frisée can provide the backbone you need.
Charred Jalapeño Coleslaw
But if you’re like me, you always have a cabbage chilling in the veg drawer. In that case go for a classic coleslaw with a zing. I used Napa cabbage, carrots, and salty cotija cheese. The zing comes from my new favorite dressing. It’s a vinaigrette made with charred jalapeños and reduced tangerine juice. I seem to always have it around this summer. It’s just the thing for whipping up miracles. GREG
The Napa cabbage photograph appears courtesy of and editorial partnership with Shutterstock.