Considered a traditional side dish to seafood or fish, I first experienced a version of this slaw along with Actually Charlie’s Brown Butter Sea Scallops at Actually Charlie’s fish shack in the Florida Keys. Charlie surprised me with the flavor complexity when he created his slaw. The addition of cheese to a slaw dish was new to me and greatly added to the sweet and savory balance.
This version stays with the Napa cabbage to provide a sweeter flavor foundation that regular green cabbage provides. Given its torpedo shape, it slices easily eliminating the need for a shredder.
Charlie used dill fronds. This recipe uses fennel fronds at first simply because that was what was on hand. The fennel added such a subtle flavor background for the dressing it became a standard ingredient.
While any cheese may be used, Comte has a boldness to stand up to the cabbage and fennel flavors yet soft enough to not over power the other ingredients. Cutting the cheese into a small dice eliminates the need for guests to slice as they are eating.
Do not omit the stone ground mustard in the dressing or substitute with yellow mustard which is too strong of a flavor. It adds the necessary bite without turning the dressing into a full mustard dressing. The true secret ingredient in the dressing is the candied ginger. It adds an Asian twist and a hidden touch of sweetness.
2 T apple cider vinegar
1 T stone ground mustard
1 T honey
¼ c mayonnaise dressing
1 T olive oil
2 T candied ginger
½ t salt
¼ t black pepper
1 small head Napa cabbage
1/4 c red onions, finely chopped
1 c walnuts pieces
8 oz Comte cheese, diced
½ c fennel fronds, roughly shredded
Place all of the dressing ingredients into a small food processor. Process until almost a smooth texture with chunks of ginger.
Cut off the core end of the Napa cabbage. Cut into 1/4 inch slices.
Chop the slices into large chunks. Place in a medium sized bowl.
Heat a cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Add the walnuts and cook while stirring until they are browned and release their nutty aroma. Set aside to cool.
Place the nuts, red onion and cheese on top of the cabbage. Toss to combine.
Add the dressing and toss to combine. Add the fennel and stir slightly just to distribute fennel. Serve