Get Together Gourmets), and time was not on my side. The theme for the month was BBQ – not only did I need to make a BBQ dish, but I also had to come up with a side dish to accompany it as well.
I have this self-inflicted rule about the dishes I take to these things: I have to make an original recipe for the Gathering. I’ve fallen short of that a few times (Chinese New Year being a prime example), but by-and-large I keep to my rule.
It turned out to be a particularly busy week – multiple jobs, a fussy client, and a minor emergency all piled on one another until it became the morning of the Gathering, and I still really didn’t know what I was going to make. I decided to fall back on my Balsamic Rosemary Glazed Chicken that I blogged about a couple of months ago, but I still couldn’t figure out the side dish.
At the eleventh hour (and out of desperation), I decided to throw all of the ingredients for cole slaw on the grill and see what happened. The results turned out to be fantastic. The grill brought out all of the amazing natural sugars of the cabbage, carrots, celery, and scallions. It was absolutely surprising. Mingled with the smoky flavors that the grill infuses, I was well on my way to a pretty decent dish.
Don and I held an impromptu tasting to decide on a dressing. I didn’t want to do a mayonnaise-based dressing after I tasted the sugary-grilled marvel of the vegetables, so I switched gears and we tried to figure out which vinegar would compliment the slaw best. We went through cider (too sharp), rice wine (too delicate), white wine (too blah), and balsamic (too overpowering) before finally settling on simple, everyday red wine vinegar.
I had drizzled so much olive oil over the veggies before I slapped them on the grill that it wasn’t even necessary to add any more for the vinaigrette. Just some salt, pepper, and an extra tablespoon of sugar (I like my slaw on the sweet side) was all it took to give this salad the perfect flavor balance it needed. (Of course, the fact that we were doing this about 30 minutes before we had to walk out the door had absolutely nothing to do with the nakedly simple dressing either).
I think we ended up sampling 9 different types of barbeque and almost as many side dishes that night, and not a clunker in the bunch. Of course, I don’t think anyone else was trying to finish creating their dish as they ran out the door. It just goes to show you – sometimes it pays to keep it stupidly simple.
Recipe: Grilled Cabbage Slaw