Taking ordinary coleslaw to a whole new level


What's the definition of eternity? A ham and two people.

I love that line from Joy of Cooking authors Irma Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker. On more than one occasion, I've baked a glorious ham for entertaining a crowd, only to discover the next day that there was enough meat remaining on the bone to feed my husband and me for an entire week.

Take, for example, the fall dinner party I held several days ago where a large glazed ham was the star attraction. Even after all the guests had helped themselves to seconds and some had even left with doggy bags, there was still a shocking amount of ham on the platter when I opened the fridge the following morning. After making what seemed like an endless number of ham and cheese sandwiches, I had to find more inventive ways to use my cache. Creamy omelets with ham, shredded Gruyere and sauteed potatoes, baked polenta rounds topped with ham and melted Fontina or a dish of penne mixed with cubed ham, bits of blue cheese and toasted pine nuts were all possibilities. But a simple coleslaw prepared with julienne strips of ham and grated white cheddar turned out to be the best solution.

Perfect as an accompaniment for grilled sausages or burgers, the slaw takes only a few minutes to assemble. The ham and cheese are tossed with finely sliced cabbage, then coated with a dressing of mayonnaise and sour cream scented with crushed caraway seeds. When served on a bed of dark green cabbage leaves, this easy dish makes a distinctive presentation.

The slaw was so good that I am planning to make it again soon. With the holidays just around the corner, I figure I can serve a ham for a large buffet, then a few days later invite friends over for a small, casual meal that features this unusual coleslaw.

Creamy Coleslaw With Ham and White Cheddar

Serves 6

a small head (about 1 3/4 pounds) green cabbage, preferably with attractive outer leaves

8 ounces thinly sliced baked ham

2 cups (8 ounces) coarsely grated sharp white cheddar

1/4 cup white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons crushed caraway seeds (see Note)

1 teaspoon salt, plus more if needed

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more if needed

1/2 cup sour cream, regular or reduced fat

1/2 cup mayonnaise, regular or reduced fat

Remove attractive outer leaves from cabbage, rinse and pat dry. Wrap leaves in paper towels and place in a large plastic bag. Store in the refrigerator until needed.

Quarter cabbage, then cut out and discard hard center core. Cut each quarter into paper-thin slices or shred in a food processor to yield about 6 cups. (You might have some cabbage left over; save for another use.) Place in a large nonreactive bowl.

Stack several ham slices, one on top of the other, and cut into julienne strips 1/4 inch wide by 2 to 3 inches long. Add ham and cheddar to bowl with cabbage and mix well to combine.

In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, sugar, caraway seeds, salt, black pepper, sour cream and mayonnaise and pour over the cabbage, ham and cheese. Mix well, then cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 2 or up to 6 hours.

Bring slaw to room temperature before serving. Taste and season to taste with more salt and pepper. Line a large, shallow bowl with reserved cabbage leaves, if desired. Mound salad in the bowl.

Note: To crush caraway seeds, place in a small plastic sandwich bag and crush with a meat pounder or rolling pin.

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