Monday, October 19, 2009

Chris Kimball's Sweet and Sour Apple and Fennel Coleslaw

This past Saturday in Washington, DC was rainy and reportedly a record cold day, but that didn't stop me from getting up early and eager to hit the farmers' market after a four week hiatus. Having recently "eaten down the fridge," I had every excuse to replenish my stocks and as unseasonably cold as it was, the slow cooker would be part of the plan. I made a small list and looked up some recipes and found one that I'd made more than a year ago (Carolina pulled pork barbecue) and one that had been on my mind for over a year (three sisters stew).

The three sisters stew (corn, squash, and beans) is something that I will blog about more extensively after preparing the dish, but suffice it to say that I was very glad that so late in the season I was still able to get corn and zucchini. The pork shoulder for Carolina barbecue had to come from my favorite meat purveyor at the market who has actually spoiled me as far as pork products are concerned. Farm raised and succulent, I imagine his pork products taste the storied way pork used to taste before the pork industry decided to lean pork out and market it as "the other white meat." I know that I'll be building my pork and bacon reserves over the next four weeks because once the market finishes for the year the weekend before Thanksgiving, I won't be buying any pork again until the spring. Sniff!

Having spent the long Columbus Day weekend in Asheville, NC and enjoying some really good Carolina and Texas barbecue at Ed Boudroux's, a place in the heart of Asheville recommended by a friend, I was happy to come home and try my hand once more at a very simple slow cooker preparation. This provided an excuse to make my signature hamburger buns and my favorite coleslaw recipe using apples and fennel. Chris Kimball's coleslaw recipe always gets rave reviews because it has some ingredients that people aren't expecting like apples. He has another Asian coleslaw recipe that I also like to make that has a spicy peanut flavored dressing.

Kimball caused a bit of a stink in the food blogosphere recently regarding his take on the demise of Gourmet, which was published in the Op-Ed pages of the New York Times. Personally I've never had a problem with the man, having enjoyed his appearances on morning television and NPR on various occasions, and America's Test Kitchen is an old school PBS stalwart of a cooking show that's all about the technique and not about the glam. But he really dissed the current state of food writing and concluded his piece with a decidedly elitist tone and even had the nerve to presume the views of the deceased Mme. Child after name dropping that he was a neighbor and frequent guest at her home. Since I'm not in the big leagues with my personal little blog space, I can's say that I took offense, but others certainly did and Amateur Gourmet as well as Serious Eats had pretty good rejoinders old guard vs. the new.

Kimball's opinions on the publishing world vs. the blogosphere notwithstanding, his coleslaw recipe is pretty simple and never fails to impress. The technique of using salt to draw out the moisture and wilt the cabbage is one I first saw in Japan in a cooking class I took there. Having made this slaw so many times over the years, I have adapted certain parts of the recipe to make it my own, the most significant being the use of dill instead of tarragon, and the addition of bell pepper, carrots, and radishes, which just makes the slaw more flavorful and visually appealing.

Coleslaw with Apple, Fennel, and Dill
Adapted from Chris Kimball's Sweet and Sour Slaw with Apple and Fennel as demonstrated on Martha Stewart's old TV show

Makes about 10 cups

  • 1 pound (about half a medium head) green cabbage, finely shredded [savoy or Chinese cabbage works nicely because they hold the dressing nicely]
  • 1 medium head fennel, thinly sliced (about 2 1/2 cups)
  • 2 large carrots peeled and thinly sliced in rounds
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely chopped [I used a whole onion]
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons rice-wine vinegar [I used apple cider vinegar]
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed [my addition]
  • 1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch pieces [any firm apple will do and I don't necessarily bother peeling]
  • 1 sweet bell pepper (red, orange, or yellow) cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 6 radishes thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh tarragon leaves [replaced by 1/3 cup chopped dill]
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  1. Toss cabbage, with salt in a colander or large mesh strainer set over a medium bowl. [Chris just has you wilt the cabbage with the salt, but I like to also wilt the fennel and carrot at the same time] Let stand until cabbage wilts, 1 to 4 hours. Rinse under cold running water (or in large bowl of ice water if serving slaw immediately). Press, but do not squeeze, to drain; pat dry with paper towels. (Can be stored in a resealable plastic bag and refrigerated overnight.)
  2. Stir together honey, vinegar, oil, mustard, and celery seed in a medium bowl and set dressing aside.
  3. Toss the cabbage, fennel, carrot, apple, pepper, radishes, and tarragon [I prefer dill] with the dressing. Season to taste with salt and pepper. [You probably won't need much salt.] Cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve.

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