Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
May 5, 2009 05:55 PM

CHOW Recipe Lab #3: Coleslaw

Here it is, May's recipe lab! This time our focus is on coleslaw since summer's just a few weeks away. The first draft of the recipe can be found here - -- so give it a gander.

You know the drill, but just to review: Take a look at the recipe for specifics, please cook it up and weigh-in on everything (we'll check in regularly too), and post your ideas for improvement by next Friday, 5/15. We'll have the second draft up for you shortly thereafter. (For details on how to participate in CHOW Recipe lab, check out this thread,

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. This should be an interesting one; everyone has their own opinion on cole slaw.

    I think I'll try it out this weekend for dinner on Mother's Day.

    3 Replies
    1. re: BigE

      Yes, that's true. This is a case of a coleslaw recipe I would never make. I like my coleslaw to be tangy since I ususally make it to eat with fairly rich thinks, like pulled pork or ribs. I have to say that I find the idea of apples as well as apple cider vinegar to be kind of a turn off.

      1. re: roxlet

        I've had apples and jicama (similar to me) in cole and enjoyed it. This one looks pretty traditional to me for a mayo slaw.

        1. re: roxlet

          I like coleslaw that's got some sweet and some sour, so I can see a tart apple and cider vinegar. Some use sugar in their coleslaw, but I'd prefer apples, if one wants a sweet note. This looks like as satisfactory a coleslaw recipe as any. I'd probably add a little cayenne powder, unless I was serving it with something spicy and wanted a contrast.

      2. Great here is a recipe lab that I can actually do and feel like I won't be wasting my money. No disrepect intended here, I just mean that if its trial and error, I can't afford to do that. I think I can actually help with this one too.

        I like it all, the fuji apple to me would be a good addition, both taste and texture would be beneficial. I am concerned about the dill. I can't remember if it's fresh or dried, but dill at 1.99 for a wad of it, I'll pull out my dehydrator see if I can keep it awhile. You know, usually we only need 1, 2 at the most, Tablespoonsof dill. The stores are selling it by the huge bunch, so you do get your money's worth.
        Hmm guess I could always make pickles!

        Well its a shame I didn't see this earlier, this would of been pretty nice with the BBQ turkey breast we're making today...oh well. BBQ weather is right around the corner.

        I'll accept the challenge.

        10 Replies
        1. re: chef chicklet

          chef chicklet, recheck the recipe - it calls for dill seed, not fresh dill.

          1. re: Caitlin McGrath

            Dill seed? hmm. Must be a pickling spice.
            I looked into my spice cabinet, and all I have is dried Dill Weed, I guess I was thinking of that instead.

            Thanks so much Caitlin, I sure appreciate the heads up, because I would of surely used the wrong ingredient!

            1. re: chef chicklet

              I think you're right, that dill seed is used for pickling, but it seems familiar in this context, so it may be that I've seen it in other coleslaw recipes in the past.

              1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                I thought celery seed was more common in cole slaw. Unfortunately, we are not great fans of mayo-based cole slaw so I won't be trying this one out.

                1. re: smtucker

                  Hmm, maybe it was celery seed I was thinking of. At any rate, like you, I don't like the mayo-based slaws, so it's theoretical.

                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                    i've seen celery seeds in slaw, too. dill seed i've seen, too, but not in slaw -- the texture seems a little strange for slaw, but....who knows? here is a photo:

                2. re: Caitlin McGrath

                  Dill seed is available in Indian stores. Named "Soa sag".

                  A few pinches of dill AND celery seed, crushed in the mortar and pestle to release oils, is mighty good in slaw.

                  1. re: FoodFuser

                    food fuser, doesn't it stlll leave little flaky bits? but maybe in coleslaw it doesn't matter.

                    1. re: FoodFuser

                      Thanks, I'll check next trip, becauce I can't find it at any of my markets, large and small.

              2. The Recipe Lab concept had a lot of promise, but doesn't seem to be working out as well as we all expected. The quantity/flavor/ingredient issues sank the tamale recipe; there wasn't much interest in the meat loaf, and the coleslaw doesn't seem to be getting people enthused, either. It may be that if you're a proficient enough cook to be interested in developing a recipe, you already know what ingredients you want to use and can tell by just reading the recipe if it will be your idea of "good".

                Ingredients aside, it looks to me like that quantity of cabbage would yield quite a bit more than 6 cups of slaw.

                33 Replies
                1. re: greygarious

                  I have to agree. Each of the three recipes has had a fatal flaw for me. The tamales was a huge amount and sweet. The meatloaf had 6 oz of tomato paste. This simply didn't appeal to me at all. And now the cole slaw has way too much mayonnaise.

                  It is hard for me to justify spending money to create a recipe that doesn't have a flavor profile that appeals to me. But I will keep reading the recipes each month and hope that one strikes the right cord.

                  1. re: smtucker

                    Hi, guys. Greygarious and smtucker, do you have specific recipes you would be interested in participating in? We're always open to suggestions.

                    1. re: aidam.

                      There was a discussion on CH about a dish called Aunt Lydia's Chicken, at a defunct NH restaurant. I've never had it and no one had an exact recipe, but the ingredients were intriguing: chicken pieces or chunks marinated overnight in creamy french dressing, tamari, OJ, and honey. Brussels sprouts, red onion, figs, dates, cashews. Maybe it would be fun to list a bunch of ingredients and ask people to come up with amounts and technique for this or some other apocryphal dish. Would this be best as a braise, a stir-fry, roasted, or grilled?

                      1. re: greygarious

                        No offense but that sounds like an absolutely disgusging combination. And i've cooked pleny of chicken with fruits but this hits all the wrong notes.

                          1. re: alkapal

                            I'm okay with the brussels sprouts, red onion, figs, dates, and cashews, but the creamy French dressing gives me pause.

                            1. re: David A. Goldfarb

                              kraft french dressing:
                              1 cup extra light olive oil
                              1/2 cup ketchup
                              1/2 cup mayonnaise
                              2 Tbs. cider vinegar
                              3 Tbs. sugar
                              1 tsp paprika
                              1/2 tsp pepper
                              1/2 tsp garlic powder
                              1/2 tsp onion powder


                              i can see that as a marinade, e.g., just substitute a little tomato paste (a T would be enough) for the ketchup, and it looks perfectly reasonable.

                              i'd grill it!

                              1. re: alkapal

                                well actually, both the brussels sprouts and the French dressing gross me out. And who needs figs AND dates? And even if I liked those things, the cashews would be too rich on top of everything else. Icky poo.

                                1. re: Ellen

                                  i don't think it's a real dish.

                                  1. re: alkapal

                                    Ok. I feel better now. Unlike country fried steak. Or brain sandwiches.

                                    1. re: alkapal

                                      Here's the thread greygarious was referring to: It looks like it WAS a real dish.

                                      1. re: LindaWhit

                                        welly well! i still don't think that sauce would be half-bad.** some of the add-ins don't appeal, but it seems the crux is the dressing with tamari, oj and honey.

                                        ** "yeah, yeah," you say, "but what about the *other* half!" ;-).

                                        1. re: alkapal

                                          Exactly - to me, it's the OTHER half that has me going "ick".

                                          I'm actually OK with the tamari, OJ and honey combo; adding creamy french dressing and it goes into the "ick factor" - especially coupled with the brussels sprouts, figs, dates, cashews, and red onions.

                                          1. re: LindaWhit

                                            but my point is: what about the dressing's ingredients gives you the ick factor?
                                            1 cup extra light olive oil
                                            1/2 cup ketchup
                                            1/2 cup mayonnaise
                                            2 Tbs. cider vinegar
                                            3 Tbs. sugar
                                            1 tsp paprika
                                            1/2 tsp pepper
                                            1/2 tsp garlic powder
                                            1/2 tsp onion powder

                                            these are perfectly acceptable, no?
                                            i'm tempted to mix a little batch, for some leftover chicken. i can see the red onion, and maybe almonds --- served on mesclun. i wouldn't waste dates, though they might be o.k. with it. in fact, thinking about it, i have a spinach salad dressing that seems similar.

                                            1. re: alkapal

                                              No problem with the dressing in and of itself - it's combining THAT with tamari, orange juice, and honey for a marinade that squicks me out.

                                              Perhaps it's fine. But it's nothing that my brain cells would have said "Hey! I've got a good idea - let's combine olive oil, mayo, ketchup, vinegar, some spices, tamari, orange juice, and honey and mix it all together and put some chicken it it and then cook the chicken!" And if the brain cells ever did think that was a good idea, I'm thinking the stomach would vehemently tell those brain cells what-for.

                                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                                now, i'm going to try it just as a dare! and i'll be honest in reporting the outcome, whether brilliant or abysmal.

                                                i've bookmarked this in recipes as "weird chicken dish with french dressing."

                                                1. re: alkapal

                                                  I look forward to your write-up. You are brave, taking one for the team. :-)

                                              2. re: alkapal

                                                I think it's the mayo. I don't do mayo in a marinade.

                                                1. re: David A. Goldfarb

                                                  that's the intriguing aspect. have you ever brushed fish with mayo to bake or grill?

                                                  and looking at that thread again, it doesn't claim that this was a marinade, but a sauce. thus mayo (basically, just eggs, mustard, oil, lemon juice or vinegar) would cook up alright. (i've made that artichoke dip where it uses mayo and sour cream, parmesan, artichoke hearts, and sometimes spinach. that works well. ;-).

                                                  so broken down into components, the ingredients for the sauce of the weird chicken dish are:

                                                  extra light olive oil
                                                  egg yolks
                                                  tomato paste
                                                  garlic powder
                                                  onion powder

                                                  are y'all feeling any less squicky with this emulsion?

                                                  1. re: alkapal

                                                    I've probably had it, but it just doesn't appeal to me to make something that way.

                                                    1. re: David A. Goldfarb

                                                      make some fish brushed with mayo? is that what you mean by "make something that way" or were you referring to the weird chicken dish?

                                                      i ask because even the aptly-admired jacques pepin has advocated the mayo trick on fish, iirc, and certainly steve raichlen.

                                                      1. re: alkapal

                                                        I admire Jacques Pepin as much as the next guy, but yeah, I'm a bit ambivalent about the idea of grilling fish brushed with mayo.

                                                        1. re: David A. Goldfarb

                                                          Surprised you haven't heard of it. It's a rather common, and uncommonly good, maybe a bit old fashioned, preparation. It was my mother's favorite way of cooking fish when I was growing up.

                                                          Perhaps some of the variations might have more appeal. I recently reported on a Broiled Bluefish Dijonnaise that I made from "Fish Without a Doubt." I mixed a bit of Dijon and thyme with some homemade mayo, spread it on a bluefish fillet, and broiled it. Simple, and truly excellent.


                                                          1. re: JoanN

                                                            I use it regularly when broiling fish, or baking-then-broiling bone in chicken breasts.

                                                            The beauty is that is an oil that stays in place, and browns under high heat, and retains the flesh moisture.

                                                            I've never used it in grilling, because the wire rack would interrupt the continuous coating.

                                                            I will confess that I am partial to the bone-in chicken breast treatment because I was first served it from a college girlfriend at age 21. It always segued into the "chicken eating scene" from the movie Tom Jones.

                                                            I have since substituted ground coriander pepper et al in the mayo as a replacement for those youthful memories.

                                                    2. re: alkapal

                                                      I have used mayo brushed on fish with herbs as a sauce, NOT a marinade. It actually wasn't bad. I still like fish especially fresh a bit more clean and pure, but it wasn't bad. I don't think I would do it again, but a friend gave me the recipe and we cooked it together. Not as "yucky" as you would think.

                                        2. re: Ellen

                                          I like all but seperate, maybe a couple of combos together, but not all that. Yuck!!

                              2. re: aidam.

                                The tamales were way too much and just not enough interest. I would like recipes that would serve 4 so they could be tried without wasting.

                                Also an interesting recipe. This coleslaw is generic and with too much mayo to me. I just made Mexican coleslaw with cumin, rice wine vinegar, chili powder, jalapeno, jicama, cabbage red and green, carrot and onion. It has been around forever. No offense but you could buy coleslaw mix, add a few things add an apple an it is done. I would like to see some unique and some original recipes or old favorites re-made.

                                Maybe some simple fish recipes or some simple veggies with a unique twist is what I would like to see. Also ingredients we don't always use, but are still common easy to fine and accessible. Maybe recipes for grilling, summer time, some good ideas for marinades and rubs and sauces that people can use for sauces on meats, poultry, seafood and pastas.

                                Just a thought.

                              3. re: smtucker

                                Interesting about the fatal flaw. I wasn't following this topic for the tamale recipe, and I just wasn't that excited about testing a meatloaf recipe, unless there was something really unusual about it.

                                This one's got me thinking about coleslaw, but the fatal flaw (which is not really a flaw with the recipe) is that I've got about a cup and a half of nice homemade rouille left over from tonight's dinner that I should use right away, so if I were to make coleslaw this week, it's going to be with that (in fact, I think I'll do that), and then I wouldn't really be testing the recipe anymore--I'd be making something completely different.

                                1. re: David A. Goldfarb

                                  Yea. There is the requirement that we make the original recipe EXACTLY as published. I think this cuts the number of people willing to play along drastically.

                                  I don't think of myself as picky, but these recipes have shown me that I am. There it is. I have opinions about food.

                                  I wonder if there should be a brainstorming session before we begin cooking. Post a recipe and people interested push back.... and we come up with ingredients that we can mostly agree upon. And then we fire up the ovens.

                                  Not sure, but as I said before, I haven't given up on this idea and will continue to check the recipe every month.

                                  1. re: smtucker

                                    smtucker--I agree with you. I was really psyched about this recipe-lab project and fully intended to participate, but I haven't cooked any of the three recipes. That's partly because I've been overwhelmingly swamped and haven't done much experimental cooking of any kind including COTM, but I don't know if that's the only thing holding me back. The must cook exactly as written rule cramps my style, to be sure because I often tweak recipes to lower the fat and sugar, among other things. Also, I try to cook with the seasons and cabbage isn't in season here yet. Also, I don't eat much mayo, so, I wouldn't choose this recipe. I can't explain why I didn't choose the meatloaf. It looked interesting.

                                    I guess COTM works pretty well because everyone who wants to participate can,hopefully, find one or two recipes in the book that looks intriguing to them, where as this recipe lab is all or nothing. Either the recipe looks like something you want to try, or it doesn't.


                                2. re: smtucker

                                  Recipes using seasonal produce from my CSA would be great!

                                  1. re: smtucker

                                    "And now the cole slaw has way too much mayonnaise." Tastes differ; to me "too much mayonnaise" is almost a nonexistent category. But I do agree with the main thrust of these arguments, that starting with a thoroughly (if to some tastes badly) developed recipe and making everyone do just THAT is not exactly the creative process I'd expect a CH exercise to be. I've done some of the Cook's Digest test recipes, and while Mr. Kimball's approach to cooking and mine are yards apart I do like the fact that they ask whether I did anything different, and what. This gives me some leeway if I see a way to a dish that will please me more. As for this one, I like my cabbage shredded, not chopped or grated, and my favored dressing starts with equal parts mayonnaise and buttermilk. Having thus become set in my ways I'm not too likely to tag along on this particular expedition.

                                  2. re: greygarious

                                    a half head of a medium cabbage yielded me at least four good cups of slaw just the other day.

                                  3. I can tell you without making the recipe: Salt the cabbage. The salt pulls out some of the water in the cabbage. If you don't do this, you'll end up with soupy coleslaw as the salt in the dressing pulls the water out instead. Just shred the cabbage, toss with a couple teaspoons of salt, and let it sit in a colander for a couple of hours. Then rinse off the excess salt, pat the cabbage dry with paper towels (or give it a whirl in the ol' salad spinner), and continue with the recipe.

                                    6 Replies
                                    1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                                      Yep. I second this advice strongly! Aside from getting rid of excess water, this technique makes any slaw much easier to eat with a fork bc it gets somewhat soft (but is still crunchy).

                                      1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                                        Yes. I'm in the salt-then-squeeze camp. (Salt heavily, place in muslin towel in colander to drain, then twist to octopus head to squeeze all water, then rinse and repeat to remove salt, whose only purpose was for osmotic dehydration of the cabbage.) If this is a "lab" testing, then an awesome comparison could do side by sides of salted-squeezed vs simply shredded.

                                        Secondly, and no less importantly, is the method of shredding and the resultant thickness/diameter of the product to be dressed. This literally comes down to the tenth of the millimeter. What a waste of time to see a recipe that says no more than "shred cabbage, and combine with dressing".

                                        I've never used the buck-a-bag preshredded cabbage, but would be willing to if it would standardize the beginning thickness of the recipe description.

                                        I use a Benriner mandoline, and perhaps a separate tewting subsection of slawmakers who do same would be fun, as we could standardize a starting thickness and final chopping dimension.

                                        I'm betting/hoping that I'm not the only CH slaw maker who calibrates their Benriner, and has access to a caliper micrometer to measure the output.

                                        Lab means science means repeatable and publishable results. Let's go for it.

                                        1. re: FoodFuser

                                          I bought a Benriner and the instructions are minimal -- you can adjust the size? How? Screws underneath? Thanks.

                                            1. re: FoodFuser

                                              Thank you SO MUCH for this great info on Benriner. How did you find these sites?
                                              I'm so glad I bought a protective glove (Polar Bear Cut Resistant Glove from askthemeatman) -- can't wait to use it -- maybe I'll make some slaw.

                                              1. re: walker

                                                That glove is marvelous. I hang the Benriner, and the glove, on a cabinet exterior, on 4d finishing nails. Makes for less cleanup time and worry of drying. There's nothing like a good open air gravity drip dry.

                                      2. So, I made it with a few changes--more of a hack than a test--and here's what I noticed.

                                        1. The coarse grater attachment on a food processor is good for the carrots and apples, but too fine for the cabbage, unless you like really fine coleslaw, which tastes a bit mealy to me. I shredded the cabbage with a 4mm slicing disk (I'm using the Kitchen Aid DVSA food processor attachment on my stand mixer, which uses the same disks as an 11-cup Kitchen Aid food processor).

                                        2. "Small" cabbage is a bit hard to define, but I'm fairly sure I got at least 8 cups from this recipe, and before adding the dressing, I was feeling that my 13 cup mixing bowl was a little on the small side.

                                        3. Instead of mayonnaise, I used an equivalent amount of rouille, following Bourdain's recipe in the _Les Halles Cookbook_, which unlike most recipes I've seen for rouille, does not use breadcrumbs, but is essentially a blender mayonnaise made with two egg yolks, a roasted red pepper, lemon juice rather than vinegar, 3 cloves of garlic, and a few threads of saffron, salt and pepper to taste, and about a half cup of olive oil drizzled slowly into the running blender. This makes for a really interesting coleslaw, but not as neutral as one made with mayonnaise.

                                        4. I like seeds in coleslaw, but I didn't think dill seed would blend so well with the rouille, so I substituted caraway seeds, and this worked well.

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: David A. Goldfarb

                                          Okay, after serving two sizable helpings with dinner, I put some of the above batch in a 7-cup container and still had lots left over, so I'd estimate the yield to be around 11 cups. Maybe alongside "small cabbage" it would be good to specify an approximate weight. We're going to be eating coleslaw all week.

                                          1. re: David A. Goldfarb

                                            I agree that a standard measure of some kind should be used to specify the amount of cabbage. I'm one of the official cole slaw makers for our town ham and bean suppers. The mayo based recipe I use is based on a recipe from a National Grange cookbook. Cabbages vary not only in size but also in the density of their leaves. Early in the season, the leaves are much looser and more tender. Later in the summer, the heads are very dense and heavy. Even a small cabbage is going to make a lot of slaw. The dressing recipe uses 1/2 the sugar I use but the same amount of vinegar and mayo I use to dress enough cabbage/carrots that will fill the largest Tupperware bowl (usually buy 2 of the largest cabbage heads I can find and use3-6 carrots). For a family size batch of slaw, this seems like way too much dressing.
                                            The dill seed is a surprise. I use the traditional (for New England, anwya) celery seed. However, the flavor could be very good since my "secret ingredient" is 1/4 cup of dill pickle juice. My sister says my cole slaw is too sweet but the bean supper habitues recognize my slaw and prefer it to everyone else's. In fact, usually, I'm the only slaw maker.
                                            I hate recipes that are not specific about amounts. Two small heads from my supermarket would generate far too much slaw for a family. If I make the recipe I would use a half head of each.

                                            1. re: dfrostnh

                                              I agree with exact amounts. Even my recipes I am guilty of I say dice 1 medium onion. Well a medium onion to me the big FL sweet onions may be way different then someone's onion in Canada. Cabbage can be a huge difference in size. I just bought one the other day that was huge compared to the ones I got back in March for St Paddy's day. 1 cabbage shredded dependent on size could really produce different total amounts of slaw.

                                              1. re: dfrostnh

                                                Hmmm. I've never put dill pickle juice in my coleslaw, but I always put some sweet pickle juice in my potato salad dressing (which, in addition to the juice, includes mayo, cider vinegar, paprika). Plus always celery seed.