Like any good Carolinian, I appreciate a decent cole slaw, though not the runny, mushy, or oddly-green variety popular at barbecue stands or diners. Rather, I offer my take on an old standard with my customary embellishments. Yes, it is surely loaded with cholesterol, fat, and all things unhealthy. As a Southerner, that is both my charge and curse, my friends.
I call it “Henry’s Favorite (But Daddy Won’t Like It) Slaw Option #17“. Henry, one of the eclectic pusses here at Marklewood adores all of its ingredients separately, and purrs in nourished content after feasting on the blend. I, as a more inconsistent, less finicky, and more human-type, fancy many, many varieties on this easily-assembled side dish and therefore number them as well, humble archivist that I am often called.
As per usual, start with a festive, aesthetically-pleasing, and ample dish:
Take two bags of angel hair slaw, open, and empty into a large mixing bowl. The finer, more delicate “angel hair” somehow seems more genteel and precious than the bulkier, more customary shreds! I have tried broccoli slaw and enjoy its savory merits, but (with this concoction) it is, alas, too strong in flaw and fiber. When I was younger and more of a purist, I would shred my own cabbage but have since grown weary of arduous tasks of the chopper.
Prepare a pound of bacon bits. I “fry up” (remember I am in North Carolina) slab-style country bacon and chop, mince, and tear apart (by hand) the fried strips of forbidden fat. Deglaze the pan with a half cup of balsamic vinegar as that will later be used as the culinary “lubricant”. Surely, you anticipated at least a few attempts at sexual metaphors or innuendo! Set aside.
Take one pound of blue cheese and crumble with gusto. Never, ever be chintzy or reserved with cheese, as it is the attraction that most party-goers come to see and admire. I have used the exotic and delightfully pungent Castilian variety but, as it is now upwards of $20 a pound, I appreciate the merits and thrifty flavor of the noble Danish blue. Set aside.
Locate, purchase, and finely chop a cup of fresh chervil. Chervil is a rather sedate and subtle herb that seems to have divine powers in food enhancement. Flavors (such as those of greasy, decadent bacon and ripe blue cheese) blossom to full impact with its addition. Of course, the designer in me would add that the dark green leafy morsels add variety and interest to the slaw as well. The challenge here, my friends, is finding chervil. I find it is easier to keep the thought of this recipe in my foremind and resurrect it should I stumble upon the herb by chance at the grocer’s. Set aside.
Pour the balsamic vinegar & bacon dripping mixture over the slaw and mix and toss into a splendid frenzy. The slaw will reduce in bulk a bit from the energetic stir. Add all the various crumbles, bits, and florets. Continue blending. Complete the process by gently spooning the slaw into your designated presentation dish and cover.
I have experimented with other seasonings and flourishes, having also added different nuts, spices, as well as vidalia onions. But I have found, paws down, that I prefer this core preparation, as it allows the bacon and blue cheese full charge of the flavors.
Slaws can be prepared in advance, awaiting later consumption, even for a day if you are a compulsive and well-planning kitchen-tender. However, if made ahead of time, the slaw will keep more properly if the liquid isn’t added until an hour before serving. Otherwise, the cabbage will wilt and the final product will be limp and runny. I personally prefer my mine firm and well-bolstered to augment the rest of that meal’s menu items!
Yes, I know this recipe is surprisingly simple and requires little thought or measure at any stage of the process. That’s the beauty of it. Sometimes there is joy and splendor to be found on the shorter path!
Perhaps it is indeed time for another glass of Caymus Conundrum.
(Image: Illustration for “Thumbelina” by Shigeru Hatsuyama, 1925.)