Thursday, January 28, 2016

Cabbage Slaw (a knife skills lesson)

KNIFE SKILLS!  Cabbage slaw is the ideal opportunity to practice a wide variety of techniques, and it follows our Tex-Mex theme.

 - 1 red cabbage, sliced
 - 1/2 large red onion, finely sliced
 - 1 jalapeno pepper (seeded and finely diced)
 - 1/3 bundle of cilantro, coarsely chopped
 - 1 lime, squeezed
 - oil
 - light-tasting vinegar (apple, rice, white wine, etc)
 - salt (heaps)
 - pepper (heaps)
 - cumin (some)
 - paprika (some)
 - garlic powder (minimal)
 - chili powder (to taste)

Level 1:  Cabbage!

The wavy internal structure holds everything together, so it's a great for a warm-up veggie.

Peel off the floppy leaves (2-4).  Cut off the bottom and slice in half.  Cut at an angle to remove the core.  Then, slice finely and chop into quarters.

Level 2:  Jalapeno!

Cut the top off and halve it.  Use the tip of your knife to remove seeds and placenta (the term for the capsaicin-producing white ribs).

Press each half of the pepper against your cutting board until it splits and flattens.  Using proper cutting technique, slice diagonally (down and forward), with your fingers tucked away from the blade.  A fine dice is the goal.

Level 3:  Red Onion!

Cut the top and bottom off.  Split in half.  Thinly slice the red onion.  Your last couple slices can be done separately (to spare your fingers).

Mini-Boss Level:  Spices!

Add salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, garlic powder, and chili powder.

Level 4:  Cilantro!

After washing your cilantro, fold it into a bundle, and tightly press it against your cutting board.  Using an orbital slicing motion, coarsely chop the cilantro.

Boss Level:  The secret to great slaw.  

Cabbage and acidity are besties (just ask sauerkraut!).  Acid helps to mellow the bitterness of cabbage, soften the fibrous structure, and the liquid helps transfer flavors between the components.  Oil adds lubrication and texture, but you don't want much (a tablespoon or two).

Time allows the flavors to mingle and develop.  If there's time, prepare it the day before.

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