Monday, June 20, 2016

Coleslaw for Haters

Not long after finishing second grade, I set out on a quest.

You see, my family moved from the land of green bean casserole and strawberry-rhubarb pie to the land of barbecue brisket. Which meant that now, any time we went to a catered meal of some sort, there was a really good possibility that it would feature barbeque meat(s) served with a handful of sides that always included coleslaw. You know the stuff. Kinda soggy chopped cabbage swimming in mayo-based soup that's occasionally too peppery and usually too sweet.

As you might have guessed, coleslaw and I did not become fast friends. But since we were so often in each other's company, it seemed only right to learn to at least tolerate each other. So I began my quest to develop a liking for coleslaw (and baked beans and potato salad, for that matter).

Through the years I've grown to like coleslaw okay, but usually only a few bites before the soggy, creamy sweetness is just too much.

Then one day I met mayo-free coleslaw.

She's happy and bright and tastes like summer. She's fresh, crunchy, and SO not fussy, and she’s got a bit of sassy tang. Mayo-less slaw has become my go-to sidekick when going to a cookout, especially if I’m short on time. I've brought her to a LOT of gatherings in the last few years, and nearly every time, someone says a variation of, "I don't like coleslaw, but this is really good."

I couldn't agree more.

Mayo-Free Coleslaw
Adapted from Marc Matsumoto
Yield: 6-8 servings

Zest of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup lemon juice (I use the juice from the zested lemon, then supplement with bottled lemon juice)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 bags of coleslaw mix, about 14 oz. each*

In a jar, combine lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, honey, salt, and pepper.** Give it a good shake. Dump the coleslaw mix into a serving bowl and pour the dressing on top. Toss well. That’s it.

I prefer to serve mine within 30 minutes to an hour after dressing the slaw. If you like a softer, more pickled slaw, store it in the fridge for a few hours.

* I usually use 1 bag regular mix (green cabbage, red cabbage, and carrots) and 1 bag broccoli slaw.
** Alternatively, you can add all the dressing ingredients to your large bowl, whisk well, and add the slaw mix on top. I like the jar method because I usually end up taking the slaw and dressing separately to wherever I’m going and dressing it as soon as I get there.

Marc Matsumoto sometimes uses vinegar or lime juice instead of lemon, or brings whole grain mustard into the mix. I imagine cilantro would be a delightful addition with lime juice and lime zest. For years now, I’ve had great intentions of trying one of these variations, but I like the original so well that I have never strayed! So if you try one of the variations, I’d love to hear how you like it!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Crawfish Stock

My friends suggested that the first step in this recipe's instructions be, "Start with a jar of crawfish carcasses." It does make for an exciting start, don't you think?

We did a crawfish boil last week at house church, and partway through the meal I decided that I wanted to make crawfish stock out of the claws, heads, and shells that otherwise would have gone in the trash. They thought I was joking until I brought out a half-gallon mason jar, filled it with crawfish remnants, and forced them to drink the rest of the tea and prickly pear limeade I'd brought so I could fill those jars with crawfish as well.

A few observations about the stock-making process:

  • It felt resourceful to make homemade broth from stuff that would normally be thrown away. If I were really resourceful, I would make a habit of tossing into the freezer carrots, half-used onions, and other trimmings that I won't be able to use before they go bad, so I could use those for stock instead of buying all fresh veggies for this.
  • Prepping the ingredients was extremely quick and easy. Since all the solids get strained out, it doesn't matter how roughly everything is chopped. I didn't even peel the carrots or garlic.
  • What took me a long time was washing pots and colanders between batches. I don't have a pot large enough to do this entire recipe in one batch, so I had to split it in half and do two rounds in my 7(?)-quart stock pot. I think I spent more time washing dishes than chopping, cooking, and straining everything.
  • Crawfish stock is basically the color of mud. It looks kinda gross, I'm not gonna lie. I felt discouraged when I saw the end result. But it tasted fine when I sampled it, and tasted even better when I used some to make jambalaya a couple days later.
  • If you have some shrimp tails, toss those in as well.
  • Open your windows to help the fishy smell dissipate.
  • Who knew a cross-section of a head of garlic could be so pretty?

Crawfish Stock
Adapted from
Yield: A little over 1 gallon of stock, which yielded 10-1/2 pint-sized mason jars, since you have to leave some head room in each one

6 quarts crawfish shells
2-1/2 large onions
10 stalks celery
5 large carrots (about 1 lb.)
2 heads garlic (whole heads, as opposed to individual cloves)
2 lemons
5 Tbsp. butter
2-1/2 small bunches fresh parsley (or 2 medium bunches)
10 bay leaves
1-1/4 tsp. dried oregano
12 stems fresh thyme
15 whole peppercorns
Very modest sprinkle of salt

Roughly chop the onions, celery, and carrots. Lay each head of garlic on its side (so the stem end points to the side rather than up or down) and slice down once through the whole head. Quarter the lemons.

In batches, rinse the crawfish shells very well. You want the stock to taste like crawfish and veggies, not like crawfish boil seasoning.

In a large stock pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the crawfish shells and cook, stirring frequently, for 5-6 minutes. Add all remaining ingredients to the pot, then add water so the ingredients are almost covered. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for about an hour.

Now it's time to strain the stock. There's not one correct way to do this, but here's how I did it. Place a large colander inside another large pot or bowl. Scoop ladlefuls of stock (with solids and all) into the colander. This will take care of all the big pieces of vegetables and crawfish, but you'll still have some thyme leaves and flecks of stuff in your broth. So now pour or ladle the broth through a fine mesh strainer. Discard all the solids.

Don't be worried that your stock is the color of mud. It will still taste good.

Portion out the broth into jars for freezing, being sure to leave an inch or so of head room since liquid expands when it freezes. Since this is shellfish, I would suggest cooling it as quickly as possible (i.e., in the fridge, freezer, or an ice bath...not by leaving it out on your counter for a couple of hours). Use the stock within 3 days or freeze it.