Thursday, February 3, 2011

Wedge o' Red, Dressed in Blue (Reconstructed Cole Slaw)

When the deconstructed food trend was at its peak a few years back, it seemed that there was not a single dish from any cuisine that was safe from its ravages. Bloody Marys, mac & cheese, turkey dinner, cheesecake, gazpacho, guacamole.* This technique of taking the well-blended elements of a tasty dish and, for some reason, serving them separately, seems to have mostly faded away.

And yet, what of the wreckage left in its wake, all those forlorn bits and shards of Humpty Dumpty recipes that still litter the culinary landscape? Where, I ask you, are the reconstructors, to step in and make things right?

I'll go first: In the new spirit of civil discourse and coming-togetherness that is sweeping the nation (uh-huh), I present here my recipe for Reconstructed Cole Slaw: The Wedge o' Red Dressed in Blue. No shredding involved (although a carrot, a pickle, and a shallot met quite a dicey fate, heh, heh).

The idea came from observing how pretty a slice of red cabbage is, the compelling marbling of purple and white along the edges of the leaves. I wanted to present a dish where you could really see that. On my first go I just soaked the cabbage in brine for a few hours, and it was good, but too crunchy. Your dinner guests would appear rather bovine, I'm afraid, presented with that chunk of raw cabbage to ruminate upon. The next time I blanched the cabbage in the brine--much more tender, and the cabbage took up more of the brine's flavor, too. A little of the color did bleed out, though; these are the compromises that make up our lives....

These are all strong flavors, which will really perk up a winter-weary appetite. It was part of a lovely lunch prepared at Bide-A-Wee while I was in recipe-testing and -editing mode recently. Bacon sandwich on bread made from "Le Bun" dough. No complaints.

Wedge o' Red Dressed in Blue (Reconstructed Cole Slaw)
Serves four

4 wedges of red cabbage, an inch wide on the wide end
1 ½ cups water
1 Tbsp salt
2 Tbsp sugar
½ cup cider vinegar

Take care to keep the cabbage leaves connected at the root end. Combine all the other ingredients in a saucepan or skillet large enough to fit the cabbage wedges. Bring the brine to a boil, add the cabbage, and simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from heat, and allow the cabbage to cool in the brine.

Make the dressing.

Blue Cheese Dressing

1 small clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons minced shallot
1 ½ oz crumbled blue cheese, about 1/3 cup
¼ cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 tablespoon white wine or cider vinegar
2 Tbsp of the cabbage brine
2 teaspoons minced carrot
1 cornichon minced, about 1 tablespoon
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh thyme leaves, stripped from 2 sprigs

Place a wedge of pickled cabbage on a plate, swipe a spoon of dressing across the middle. Serve with bread to mop up the extra dressing.


* A quick Google revealed that Rachael Ray, of all people, was quite into the deconstruction scene. But deconstructed guacamole? I mean, just how constructed is avocado mush, to start with...?

Text and photos copyright 2011 by Brett Laidlaw


el said...

That looks really tasty, Brett. And about all I have around here is cabbage, up I guess! I like the idea of braising the cabbage first. But I do like feeling like a ruminator, at least in the non-judgmental company of my family ;)

Trout Caviar said...

It was also a little tough to cut when I served it raw. I didn't care for the idea of having to put out steak knives to eat the salad. Then again, why not? But it gets a much more pickled flavor when blanched in the brine, of course.

I love cabbage. I'm not sick of winter vegetables yet. And now as it's February I might be so bold as to start some seeds. And maybe in six months of so, we'll be getting close to catching up to you zone 6ers, El...!


Anonymous said...

Now doesn't that just look pretty?! And delicious! Yum!

WeekendFarmer said...

I just got hungry again : )! That bread in the older post looks delish! I can just smell it.

el - that reminded me of the no-knead bread you tried few years back...yummm!

Trout Caviar said...

Hi Alyssa: One of the things I've realized in the time I've been taking pictures of most of my food (!)is that it's not hard to make good food look beautiful, because it is beautiful. The natural shapes and colors are always appealing--you don't need sauces painted on the plate or elaborate constructions (or deconstructions!).

WF, I can't think of a higher compliment! The bread did smell fantastic, too. Great crust on that batch.

Cheers, & thanks for writing~ Brett