Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Calico Coleslaw

Earlier in the week I had a bit of cooking disaster while making a corn soufflé. I attribute this failure to the change in an ingredient, thinking I knew better. The soufflé that came out of the oven let me know that I wasn't as food substitution smart as I thought I was, at least not in this recipe. With the proliferation of corn at the local produce market and roadside stands, I have been a little corn crazy these past few weeks (when one grows up on the midwest, corn country, you can get a little corn fussy and obsessed in finding the sweetest corn). I really think I could live on grilled bi-color sweet corn (even without the butter), but there are so many uses of corn that it would be silly to limit oneself to enjoying the taste of corn made only one way. Okay maybe not silly exactly, but maybe a tad limiting.

Being on this corn obsession reminded me of a coleslaw recipe that contained corn. And even though it uses canned and not fresh corn (yes I know a bit of a cardinal sin), it is a coleslaw that is a little different from traditional coleslaws. I needed an excuse to make this coleslaw (like one needs really need an excuse to make something delicious) and a beach and barbecue day with friends was just the reason I needed to make it. Now bringing coleslaw to gatherings is a little risky because everyone has their coleslaw preferences. Some like theirs mayonnaise based and some like theirs vinegar based. Because this coleslaw recipe uses both mayonnaise and vinegar I thought maybe both coleslaw camps would be covered.

My childhood BFF had shared this recipe with me years ago so I don't know its' origin. If you do an internet search for Calico Coleslaw recipes there are so many having this name, all with a different combination of ingredients. So I apologize now to the person who created this version of Calico Coleslaw. I thought about renaming this coleslaw and I wasn't really sure that calico describes its' deliciousness. But since I could not think of another name (my recipe naming creativity was a little challenged), I decided to just stick with Calico Coleslaw (as maybe just the name itself creates some culinary curiosity).

I had shared with friends the other day that I only like eating cabbage prepared in its raw, not cooked form. And I only like making coleslaw using a fresh whole head of cabbage versus using those pre-packaged cabbage slaw mixtures they sell in the produce section of the grocery store. Thinly slicing or shredding a head of cabbage allows your coleslaw to have a mixture of both white and green strands. I love the color white but not in a 'white' slaw and that's what you get with most of the prepackaged slaw mixes (along with some dried shredded carrots). This is a slaw without carrot or white onions. Instead it uses green onions which are great compliment to the cabbage, adding a great onion flavor without overpowering the slaw with it.

I find it easiest to slice or shred the cabbage by first cutting it into quarters and then cutting off some of the firmer white portion. One medium sized head of cabbage should yield 8 to 10 cups of sliced cabbage. More is sliced cabbage is better in this recipe. If less you will need to adjust how much dressing you mix into it.

Both the green and white portions of the green onions are sliced thinly on the diagonal. Six green onions should yield one cup of sliced onions, however, depending on the size of your green onions you may need 7 or 8.

What makes this coleslaw a little different from other slaw recipes is the addition of cubed American cheese and corn. I like buying the white versus the yellow American cheese from the deli counter. A chunk of cheese about one inch think should get you the equivalent of at least one cup of cubed cheese. A little more than one cup of cubed cheese is a good thing in this recipe. So if your chunk is one-third versus a quarter of a pound, by all means add it to the slaw mixture. Yes, I know this is the height of the summer corn season yet I am sharing with you a recipe calling for the use of canned corn, a Mexicorn mixture containing green and red peppers (although in the cans of corn I used, there weren't a significant number of peppers). Remember to drain the corn before mixing in with the other ingredients.

All of the vegetables are mixed together in a large bowl before the dressing is added. The mixing helps to evenly distribute the green onions, corn and cheese into the sliced cabbage.

There is no additional salt added to this coleslaw. The flavoring comes from the sugar, prepared mustard, celery seeds and vinegar that is added to the mayonnaise (real mayonnaise). All of the dressing ingredients are whisked together in a medium sized bowl until well combined. In order not to overdress the slaw, hold back at least 1/4 cup of the dressing before mixing in or add half of the dressing mixture, mix and then determine how much dressing you want to add.

The cabbage will release some its' moisture as it sets in the refrigerator so you want to be careful not to begin with too much moisture. Reserve any unused dressing and add to the slaw (if needed) after it sets. Transfer mixed slaw to a serving bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours before serving.

Calico Coleslaw (origin unknown)

1 medium sized cabbage (yielding 8 to 10 cups of shredded cabbage)
6 green onions, green and white parts (yielding one cup of sliced onions)
1 cup or 4 ounces of American cheese cubed
2 cans (11 ounce size) of Mexicorn (whole kernel corn with green/red peppers), drained
2 cups mayonnaise (recommend Hellman's)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons prepared mustard
1 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 cup white distilled vinegar
optional: 1/2 cup sliced black olives

1. Mix together the shredded cabbage, sliced green onions, cubed American cheese and drained corn in  a large bowl.
2. Combine mayonnaise, sugar, mustard, celery seed and vinegar. Whisk until well blended.
3. Add the dressing to the slaw mixture. Note: Hold back 1/4 cup of the dressing. If slaw mixture is well coated, reserve dressing. If not, add the 1/4 cup.
4. Refrigerate at least 6 hours before serving.
5. If adding the optional black olives, add them when mixing the vegetables or sprinkle them on top of finished slaw.

I have lived out east for almost two years now and I just recently downloaded a tide chart app. For me the concept of tides was one I was not familiar with nor really understood having grown up in the midwest cornbelt. But I have since learned the importance of knowing when its' high and low tide (it can be incredibly disappointing to get up early with a plan to walk along the ocean and arrive to only discover its' high tide). You might be wondering why it took so long for me to grasp the concept or even have ready access to tide information. Well working long 10 to 12 plus hour days as well as working 6 days a week sometimes didn't give me as much time to walk along the ocean (I was putting sleep ahead of getting up at 5 am to get the beach walk in). But for the past several weeks I have had much more flexibility in my day and getting to the ocean, daily if weather possible, has become a routine I absolutely love (even if it means a little less sleep).

I love very early morning or late end of the day walks along the ocean when the beach itself feels a little empty with the only sound being the ocean or the wind. Just taking in the changing views of the water and the sky as well as listening to the sound and smell of the ocean is simultaneously energizing and relaxing. And whether its' a menacing gray sky or one filled with the most beautiful shades of blue, they are all compelling to take in. I have come to truly understand why people crave ocean or water views. Not only are they views that are beautifully unpredictable in color, but you get a feeling you are looking at and living with 'art'. I don't think one ever tires at looking at nature or landscapes or at least I don't think I could ever tire of looking at them or wanting to photograph them. And hopefully I never will.

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