By N.E. Sheehan.
(Editor’s Note: Typically, we focus on tips and recipes from local purveyors. However, many of us, since we were kids, have wondered how Kentucky Fried Chicken makes such great coleslaw…and as we discovered, it’s all in the technique.)
Summer is such a magical time of year-long sunny days, the exquisite garden tomato, fun at the beach with family and friends, and that perfect cookout with grilled shrimp, corn-on-the-cob, and a homemade blueberry pie. It really doesn’t get better than this! But remember, every amazing summer meal depends equally on some delicious side dishes.
Coleslaw is truly the ideal summer side. Yet with busy schedules, most of us think to pick it up at a supermarket when actually it is so easy to make it yourself.
Cabbage, the main ingredient in coleslaw, is one of the world’s oldest cultivated vegetables. Ranging in color from green, to red, to purple, cabbage is part of the broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprout family. It is chock full of fiber, and rich with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, making it an important component of a healthy diet.
eSS&SC recently connected with some of the world’s experts on coleslaw. In fact, these experts helped put coleslaw on the map! Head Chef Bob Das from KFC US headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky, happily shared techniques and tips for making basic coleslaw.
Chef Das recommends you salt a quartered cabbage in a colander for a few hours or overnight. This, he says, helps break down the hard cell structure of the cabbage for a more tender slaw, and allows the dressing to adhere better to the coleslaw. Rinse and thoroughly dry your cabbage.
Grating and Shredding
Once your cabbage has been washed and dried, you are ready to grate the cabbage with a box grater into a large bowl or a pan. You can choose to do a longer shred, which is very traditional in New England…or in KFC tradition, choose a fine shred. The finer shred is perfect on top of a freshly fried fish sandwich or simply on its own.
Combine and Toss
Chef Das suggests combining green and purple cabbages—other ingredients in KFC’s coleslaw include onions, carrots, and fresh Italian parsley—all grated or finely chopped, with a sprinkling of kosher salt and sugar. Toss to combine. Let rest 30 minutes, then transfer to a large colander and rinse thoroughly under cold running water.
Drying the Slaw a Key Component
It is important that the slaw ingredients are dry before adding the dressing. Chef Das recommends transferring the rinsed mixture into a salad spinner and spinning it dry, or transferring it to a baking sheet lined with a triple layer of paper towels or a clean kitchen towel. Blot the mixture dry before transferring to a large bowl.
Once it is completely dry, the slaw is ready to be dressed. KFC’s recipe calls for mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, black pepper, and sugar, whisked in a medium bowl until combined. Then the dressing is poured over the slaw mixture and tossed to coat. Taste and adjust the seasoning with more salt, pepper, sugar, and/or vinegar (or mayonnaise) if desired.
Some Final Tips
Chef Das suggests a more vinegar-based coleslaw for hot summer days, saving the more creamy/mayonnaise-based dressing for indoor dining. He also encourages you to experiment with different color cabbages, nuts, and fruits, such as walnuts, chopped pecans, grated apple, or pineapple. The addition of grated apple or raisins to coleslaw is a delicious way to entice children to the world of vegetables.
With these easy steps, you can make a tasty slaw and have all your cookout and fish-fry friends gushing with envy. The beauty of coleslaw is that you can experiment and be versatile with ingredients. Make it your own signature dish.
Note: A box grater is an essential and inexpensive tool for making a good coleslaw. You can find them in any store that has a kitchen department. Experiment with your grater for a longer or a finer cabbage shred.
NE Sheehan is now a coleslaw aficionado and wants to extend a special thanks to Head Chef Bob Das and Lori Riddle Eberenz, Senior Manager of Public Affairs of KFC U.S., for making her the cabbage queen of her neighborhood!