Classic Coleslaw Recipe

by formerchef on August 29, 2015

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Labor Day is soon upon us and with it the last hurrah of summer. It’s time for one last picnic, one last barbeque, and one last salad, before Autumn sets in and with it the warming soups and stews of colder weather.

What better to go with that picnic or barbeque than the classic coleslaw? Mix up some crisp cabbage with a creamy and tangy dressing to offset that pulled pork, sticky ribs or barbecued chicken.

The origin of coleslaw comes from the Dutch word koolsla which literally translates to cabbage salad. Dutch settlers brought cabbage to the new world with them and settled in New Amsterdam which eventually became New York’s Manhattan. Coleslaw’s long history in the US makes it an American dish in its own right.

Tip for crisp coleslaw: Cabbage contains a lot of water and once dressed will exude liquid and make the salad soggy if left to sit too long.  One option is to “purge” the cabbage by tossing it in salt and allowing it sit for 10 minutes and then rinsing it. This process forces some of the water out of the cabbage and also gives it a softer texture. If you like the crispness of raw cabbage and are planning on eating the salad right away then there is no need to purge the cabbage.

Classic Coleslaw Recipe

Classic Coleslaw Recipe

Classic Coleslaw


    For the slaw:
  • 1 pound green head cabbage, shredded (about 8 cups)
  • 4 ounces red cabbage shredded (about 2 cups)
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and shredded (about 1 cup)
  • ½ cup sweet white onion, thinly sliced
  • For the dressing:
  • ¾ cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


  1. Thinly slice the both the green and the red cabbage and place in a large bowl.
  2. Optional: Purge the cabbage. Combine the cabbage in the bowl with 1 tablespoon of kosher salt and allow it to sit for ten minutes to purge some of its water and soften the cabbage. Rinse well in a colander. Dunk the cabbage in ice water to crisp it up, drain, and spin in a salad spinner to remove excess moisture.
  3. Shred the carrot on a box grater or mandolin slicer with the medium toothed insert. Cut the onion in half and thinly slice into half rounds, separating the pieces.
  4. Combine the cabbage, carrot and onion in a large bowl.
  5. In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, celery seed, salt and pepper until smooth.
  6. Slowly add the dressing to the cabbage mixture until you have the desired about of dressing. If you have purged the cabbage you may find you need less dressing. With completely raw fresh cabbage, you may need all of it. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.
  7. Options: Add red onion, thinly sliced green apple, celery or fennel to the slaw mix. In the dressing, add mustard, horseradish, or hot sauce for extra flavor.

Classic Coleslaw Recipe


Tips for Cooking With Wine and Spirits

by formerchef on August 22, 2015

Tips for cooking with wine and spirits on

For as long as people have been making wine, they have been using it in cooking to enhance the flavor of their food. Ancient Romans used wine in their cooking and its use spread along with the empire. Today, all types of alcohol are used in cooking worldwide. Beer is often used in stews and cooking bratwurst. Wine is used in everything from sauces to desserts. Rice wine is used in many Asian cuisines.

Wine adds flavor and moisture to foods. It can even substitute for water, especially in long braises, but also in food cooked for a short time. Wine can also be used as the ‘acid” in marinades for meat and poultry.

When it comes to cooking with spirits, alcohol, especially neutral flavored ones made from grain or potato, may not contribute to the flavor of the dish as much as enhance the other ones already present. Alcohol dissolves fats and releases their flavors; for this reason Vodka in the Penne alla Vodka sauce recipe enhances the tomato via the cream.

When added at the end of the cooking process, the flavor of the liqueur used will be a finishing agent and its taste will be more pronounced. For example, kirsch is typically added right before serving a fondue. Grand Marnier, rum, brandy are added to flavor chocolate truffles. In a flambé, one can taste the brandy because the alcohol is only briefly set alight.

Tips for cooking with wine:

Use a decent wine when cooking; the cheapest wines may not yield the best results. A good rule of thumb is if you wouldn’t drink the wine on its own, don’t cook with it. That doesn’t mean there aren’t perfectly decent bottles of wine out there for cooking in the $7-$10 range and if you buy something drinkable, you can always finish the bottle with the meal, avoiding waste.

Avoid anything labeled “cooking wine” sold with vinegars in the grocery aisle; they are loaded with salt and preservatives and you’d never want to drink them. On the other hand, save that gorgeous $50 Cabernet for drinking, the subtleties of flavor will be lost in cooking.

Keep in mind what you’re cooking when choosing the wine. Sweeter wines, dessert wines, and fortified wines have more sugar in them and work best with desserts. They can caramelize or even burn during the cooking process, so take care. Full bodied wines go well with beef and pork and the more acidic dry white wines with citrus notes do well with fish and chicken. But there are always exceptions to every rule; we use sherry (a fortified wine) with excellent results in the chicken recipe below, and a red wine (a Pinot Noir), pairs perfectly with the salmon below.

White wines for cooking; Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, and unoaked Chardonnay (a Chardonnay with heavy oak in it can taste bitter when reduced). Sauvignon Blanc holds up well when used in cream sauces because of its high acidity, Pinot Grigio is neutral and great for poaching, while Chardonnay offers the most complexity. White wines often have flavor notes of citrus, vanilla, caramel, apples, tropical fruits and you can select wines with those flavors to enhance what you’re cooking.

Red wines for cooking; Lighter reds like Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, and Malbec. Take care with Cabernet because a heavily oaked wine can become too tannic. Red wines often have flavor notes of plum, cherry, berries, chocolate, coffee and mushrooms and those ingredients pair well with reds.

When making gravy, try deglazing the roasting pan with white wine to add acidity to the gravy which balances out the salty and savory flavors.

Does alcohol “cook off”? This is a common misconception; in truth, alcohol content diminishes with cooking time but never completely disappears. For example, in a sauce with alcohol added, after 15 minutes of simmering there’s about 40% left, after one hour,  25% and after two and a half hours there’s still 5% alcohol remaining.

Keep in mind those percentages are of the amount of alcohol originally added to the dish, not of the entire dish. The percentage of alcohol left from a cup of red wine used in cooking in 3 quarts of long simmered marinara is negligible, but the amount of alcohol left in a flambé using brandy and only flamed for a few seconds is quite high (about 75% remains). That said, if you are concerned about alcohol in a dish for personal or dietary reasons it’s always a good idea to ask how much is used and how it’s cooked.

In upcoming posts we’ll explore some recipes using wine as a key ingredient; Beef Bourguignon, Salmon with Pinot Noir Cherry Sauce, and Pears Poached in Red Wine with Orange Cardamom Sabayon.
In the meantime, there are already several recipes using wine and spirits right here on Former Chef. Here are a few of my favorites:

Let me know; do you like to cook with wine or do you just prefer to have it in your glass?


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