In case she hasn’t mentioned it, Simran is rather obsessed with fried chicken. It’s not unusual for me to get fried chicken-related text messages with her latest finds. These usually pop up on my phone while I’m diligently eating a plain jane salad or trying to get my family excited about eating unexciting leftovers. So on a recent trek to the East Bay we made a mandatory stop at Oakland’s Bakesale Betty to enjoy one of their famous fried chicken sandwiches. The fact that I had never been there was a bit of a shocker for Simran and I think she felt it was her duty as a friend to correct that problem ASAP.
Needless to say the chicken sandwich was most excellent. I practically had to arm wrestle my toddler for the last bite. I was not only impressed with the sandwich itself, I was quite taken with the ironing boards for picnic tables out front, the frozen lemonade and the efficiency of their service. Despite a fairly sizeable line (and this was midweek — I’m sure weekends are nuts), things moved along quickly and our sandwich was made-to-order perfect when we dug in… warm, crispy-juicy chicken and cool, crisp coleslaw. In fact, the coleslaw might have been the star of the show for me. Lightly dressed, tangy and mayo-free, it lightened up the sandwich and gave it that perfect little bit of freshness.
This sandwich haunted my dreams and I couldn’t get it out of my mind for days and days after eating it. So when we decided to throw a family picnic for my mom’s birthday, I decided a Bakesale Betty-esque sandwich would be just the thing. I’m not much for deep frying, so I just cooked up a regular old oven fried chicken recipe — not awesome, but good enough. The coleslaw, on the other hand, was killer. I made some tweaks from a recipe I found online at Via Magazine. Such a great side dish for any BBQ not to mention an awesome condiment whenever you find yourself with some fried chicken in a bun.
Bakesale Betty Coleslaw (makes about 3 cups)
You can do all the prep up to a day or two ahead, but for maximum crunch treat it like a salad and don’t combine the separate elements until the last minute, right before serving. Because of the salt, combining the pickled onions and cabbage very far in advance will make the cabbage soggy.
- 1/2 head green cabbage
- 1 small jalepeno or serrano chile
- small bunch of parsley
- 1 small red onion
- 1/3 cup (for the onions) + 2 tablespoons (for the vinaigrette) red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- sugar, salt
1. Quick pickle the onion.
- Cut the onion in half and then in half again so you have quarters. Remove the outer layer. Slice onion quarters crosswise into thin cross sections, about 1/8″ thick.
- Place the sliced onions in a bowl and fluff to separate the pieces. To the onions add 1/3 cup red wine vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 2 teaspoons sugar. Stir well and set aside to pickle for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes drain off the liquid and taste onions to make sure you are happy with the flavor. Add a pinch pinch of sugar or salt if necessary.
- Store the pickled onions in a covered container in the refrigerator until ready to assemble coleslaw.
2. Prep the cabbage, parsley and chile.
- Remove outer layers and cut the cabbage half into two or three wedges. Cut away any large pieces of core from the center and discard them. Slice the cabbage wedges crosswise as thinly as possible so you have very delicate shreds. [If you have a mandoline you can use that to shave the cabbage, but you will probably want larger pieces to work with].
- Remove the stem of the chile and slice in half. Cut chile crosswise into paper thin half moon slices. [You may remove the seeds or omit the chile altogether if you are sensitive to spiciness]
- Pick the leaves off of a small bunch of parsley and chop. Toss cabbage, chile and parsley to mix well, place in a covered container, tuck in a damp paper towel and refrigerate until ready to assemble coleslaw.
3. Make the vinaigrette.
- Whisk 1 teaspoon of dijon mustard, 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar and a pinch of salt.
- Slowly drizzle 6 tablespoons of olive oil while whisking energetically. Keep whisking until the vinegar and oil are well combined and emulsified. Taste vinaigrette and add a pinch of sugar, salt or a dash of vinegar as needed.
Assemble the coleslaw
- Right before you’re ready to serve, toss the cabbage/parsley/chile with the pickled onions to mix well. Dress with the vinaigrette and toss again to coat everything well with the dressing.