Creamy, Crunchy Dijon Cole Slaw

My intention for this post and recipe was to introduce you to my new food processor; I’m excited about my choice of machines and still learning how to use some of the features that are new to me. But I’ll save that for another day, because what this post is really about is a new trick I’ve learned in the kitchen—one that has very little to do with my food processor and everything to do with trying something new with an old tried-and-true: cole slaw.

There are so many ways one can make cole slaw, and it’s usually the dressing that makes each version special, whether it’s sweet and creamy like a KFC-style slaw or refined and elegant with a lime and poppy seed vinaigrette. I shared those when Comfort du Jour was brand new, and they are delicious, just like the tangy apple cole slaw from last summer.

This time, I’ve changed the dressing again (and I think you’ll love its delicate Dijon flavor), but I’ve also dabbled in a new technique that I read about from one of my newest kitchen idols, J. Kenji López-Alt. I love the way this guy approaches food, always with a “what if” attitude, and after his exhaustive experiments in what he calls “The Food Lab,” Kenji is great about sharing his culinary discoveries with home cooks like you and me. You will find a ton of his recipes on the Serious Eats website, but also on his own YouTube channel, which a basically a rabbit hole of exciting kitchen experiments.

His method for making cole slaw produces a perfectly textured salad that is soft, yet pleasantly crunchy. It has all the right flavor but doesn’t get soggy in the bowl. That has always been the bummer, hasn’t it—to load up your plate with all your summer favorites, only to have everything turn milky and soggy because the cole slaw dressing runs everywhere? Well, friends, Kenji has fixed that! And this game changer is so darn simple. Rather than just adding dressing to freshly shredded cabbage and carrots, there’s an intermediate step of extracting most of the moisture from the vegetables first. Under Kenji’s guidance, I tossed the cabbage and carrots with a very generous scoop each of kosher salt and cane sugar, then rinsed it under cold water (which seemed counterproductive with the intention of removing excess water, but stay with me), and then I dried it before proceeding with the dressing. The results were outstanding, and the fine strands of cabbage held exactly enough dressing for flavor, but not so much to drown it.

The extraction of extra moisture results in a cole slaw that feels almost like sauerkraut, with a squeezed-dry texture, but with all the familiar crunch and flavor you expect.

The dressing is a departure from other cole slaw recipes I’ve made, as it has only a slight hint of sugar (a lovely balance to the apple cider vinegar in the recipe). Dijon mustard lends a little sass to the creamy mayo, and I mixed in a dash of celery seed along with drained, finely shredded sweet onion and about two dozen twists of freshly cracked black pepper. Here’s how it goes, beginning with about 8 cups of shredded cabbage and carrots in a very large bowl:


At the point that I noticed all that liquid resting in the bowl after the salt-and-sugar bath, it occurred to me that Kenji’s technique for cole slaw is basically the same one I use for making homemade giardiniera, and the outcome is similar, too—crunchy and firm, despite being soaked in a pickling liquid.

My inspiration for both the technique and dressing on this cole slaw comes directly from Kenji, and if you want to get geeked about the science behind it (as I already have), you may do so by linking to this article:

How To Make the Best Creamy Coleslaw | The Food Lab

Otherwise, just get straight to making it. 🙂


Creamy, Crunchy Dijon Cole Slaw

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: average
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If you’ve never had cole slaw that didn’t water down your entire plate, then this recipe is for you! The intermediate step of “purging” the moisture from the shredded cabbage is changing the game on this favorite summer salad.

Ingredients

  • 8 cups total, shredded green and red cabbage (fresh is best)
  • 3 average sized carrots, peeled and shredded
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt (for purging)
  • 1/3 cup cane sugar (for purging)

Ingredients

  • scant 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. prepared Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. cane sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. celery seed
  • 1 heaping teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 medium yellow or sweet onion, finely shredded and drained


To make this cole slaw, you will need a large colander for draining the cabbage, and a salad spinner or clean, unscented towels for eliminating the excess moisture.

Directions

  1. Combine the shredded cabbage and carrots in a large bowl, with extra room for tossing. Pour the kosher salt and cane sugar all over the shreds and toss with salad forks or your clean hands to distribute throughout the cabbage mixture. Allow it to rest at least 5 minutes, or up to 15 minutes. The salt-sugar blend will coax the excess moisture from the cabbage.
  2. Transfer the mixture to a colander placed in the sink. You should notice a significant volume of liquid in the bottom of the bowl. Rinse the mixture really well under cold, running water. Toss it thoroughly as you rinse, and continue for about two minutes to get all the excess salt removed. Taste a piece or two. If they are too salty, rinse another couple of minutes.
  3. To dry the cabbage, use a salad spinner (in batches) or line a baking sheet with a clean kitchen towel or layers of paper towels. Place the cabbage on the towels, cover with another towel (or more layers of paper towels) and press heartily to soak up the moisture. I used kitchen towels and gently rolled up the cabbage to squeeze out the excess water. Transfer the cabbage to a large bowl for dressing.
  4. Combine the dressing ingredients, stirring in the drained, shredded onion after mixing. Pour over the cabbage blend and toss to coat.


Have a safe Memorial Day weekend! And if you’re wondering what happened to my tie-dyed towels, never fear:



Maple Mustard Meatballs

During the holiday season, right smack between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I shared my recipe for Smoked Maple Bourbon Crème Brûlée. That dessert was divine, with all the silky creaminess you’d expect and a generous splash of smoked maple bourbon, a Knob Creek product that my husband and I had recently discovered. The culinary possibilities of this bourbon seem limitless, as we have enjoyed it now in cocktails, dessert and these meatballs, which were inspired by a comment made by a friend on that crème brûlée post.

We have been so inspired by this smoked maple-flavored bourbon.

My friend and blog buddy, Michelle, cannot tolerate alcohol in drinks but she enjoys the flavors of booze in food (including the Tequila & Lime Chicken Tacos she inspired me to make last summer). Michelle commented that the maple-bourbon combination in my dessert reminded her of a signature appetizer made by an old friend. Can’t we all relate to that—a dish so good that we can still taste it in our minds, even years later? That simple comment about her friend’s “maple mustard mystery” meatballs got my own creative juices going. I was bored with ground beef (and it isn’t always easy to find fresh grass-fed in the store), so I turned to ground pork instead and modified a recipe I already had for Marsala-braised pork meatballs. I had been thinking about making those, but maple and bourbon sounded much more interesting.

Maple is one of the most versatile sweeteners I know—it is not a flat kind of sweet, as sugar is, but complex, with a warmth and depth that you can’t get from brown sugar or even honey. Maple plays nicely with tangy, spicy and smoky as well as it does with creamy and buttery. If you have only enjoyed maple with weekend pancakes, this recipe may help you break out of a flavor rut. The maple and mustard was a terrific combination for early December, which is when I made the meatballs. Yes, we are hanging in there with dry January, so I suppose you could say I am enjoying bourbon vicariously through myself from last month.

For this meatball recipe, I paired a spicy maple syrup with Dijon mustard, a bit of tomato paste, onion juice and some of the smoky maple bourbon we had bought for the Smoked Maple Cranhattans at Thanksgiving. I resisted the urge to add cream to this sauce, because cream tends to soften other flavors and I really wanted the maple and mustard to enjoy the spotlight.

Mission accomplished—they were delicious! I served them over a bed of simple mashed potatoes and with a side of roasted root vegetables, but I couldn’t help thinking they would also be delicious on toothpicks as an appetizer, as my friend remembered them. Super Bowl, maybe?


Ingredients

1 large, sweet or yellow onion* (see notes)

1 lb. fresh ground pork

1/3 lb. bulk breakfast sausage

1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs

1/4 cup milk

2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

1 Tbsp. tomato paste

2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

2 Tbsp. real maple syrup*

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

Up to 1/2 cup low-sodium vegetable broth

2 Tbsp. smoked maple bourbon*


*Notes

When I made these meatballs, I had reserved onion juice from the Classic Crispy Latkes I had made for the first night of Hanukkah. You will only use half of the large onion in this recipe, but you need the juice of the whole onion to flavor the simmering sauce.

I used a habanero-infused maple syrup for this recipe because my husband and I enjoy spicy foods. Any maple syrup would be delicious—but choose real maple for the best flavor. If the idea of spicy flavor appeals to you, try using regular maple syrup and add about a teaspoon of cayenne or sriracha sauce for similar results.

The smoked maple bourbon is a Knob Creek product. It’s completely optional in this recipe. If you avoid alcohol, simply omit this and add an extra splash of vegetable broth.


Instructions