Chosen Bites: Food fads for 2011

Embrace one of this year's hottest trends - 'Meatless Mondays' - with executive Chef Laura Frankel's infamous mac & cheese casserole.

Mac and Cheese Casserole 311  (photo credit: Courtesy)
Mac and Cheese Casserole 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Every year I wait for the list of food trends for the coming year. It is not that I can or even want to follow most trends-it is just that I am reassured that I am usually pretty on top of what is current.
I am not sure that pie is really going to be the new cupcake in 2011 and that kumquats will be the new pomegranate (more on kumquats next week). I love cupcakes and pie. I also love pomegranates and kumquats.
I know for sure that cooking kosher for a living and at home that I will not partake in the trend of cooking and eating Snout to Tail. I do however understand and completely support the integrity of the movement or trend.
I do nevertheless completely embrace "Meatless Mondays". Most of us eat too much meat and with the current movement/trend to cut back on eating meat and all of the stress on the planet that cattle cause I am all for the occasional dairy or vegetarian meal.
My Macaroni and Cheese casserole is heartwarming and simply delicious.With the crispy breadcrumb topping and creamy cheese sauce you will never miss that meat. I made the leap to whole wheat pasta several years ago. I suppose it was in an effort to make the decadent dish a bit healthier. I am not sure that anyone noticed right away or if they did, they did not complain. The casserole is a menu MUST in our home-and very trendy.
Warm and Comforting Macaroni and Cheese CasseroleServes 6 generously
This recipe is a family favorite and has been requested by my kids sometimes weekly. I have sent it to college and shipped it across the country. The recipe was used as winnings in a poker game, by one of my sons, and has been the source of bragging rights. The sour cream tossed with the cooked pasta is a creamy indulgence that makes the finished casserole silky smooth and comforting. The addition of the breadcrumb topping resulted in several family meetings and late night email discussions. The consensus was that it was integral to the dish’s multi-textural interest.
Ingredients -1 pound macaroni or favorite pasta shape (I use whole wheat pasta and no one seems to notice or care!)-3 tablespoons butter-3 tablespoons flour-1 shallot, minced -2 cloves garlic, minced -2 cups of milk (I use Whole or 2% milk)-½ teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg-2 teaspoons hot sauce-3 cups shredded cheddar cheese or a mix of favorite cheeses (I use white sharp cheddar and Swiss)-1 cup of sour cream-½ cup bread crumbs-Panko* is perfect for this -2 tablespoons melted butter -Salt and pepper to taste
Diections1.  Pre-heat oven to 350 F. Bring a large saucepan with water to boil. Cook the pasta until al dente (about 10 minutes depending upon size of pasta). Drain and set aside.2.  Place a large sauté over medium heat. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter. Add chopped shallot and garlic. Cook until light golden brown (about 3 minutes) Add flour and stir together. Cook the mixture for several minutes to remove the raw flour flavor.3.  In a separate pan heat the milk until simmering. Add all at once to flour mixture. Whisk to prevent lumps. Cook until thickened (about 3-5 minutes). Add the nutmeg and hot sauce and whisk until combined.4.  Remove from heat. Add grated cheese and stir until melted.5.  Stir sour cream with cooked pasta. Add cheese mixture and stir to combine. Place in a lightly greased casserole. 6.  Combine bread crumbs with melted butter and sprinkle on top of casserole. Bake at 350 until bubbly and golden (about 30 minutes). Serve with salad. The macaroni and cheese casserole can be made 1 day ahead of serving and can be assembled but not baked and held in the refrigerator.   *Panko breadcrumbs are a Japanese style breadcrumb that are very crispy and make a perfect topping or crust. Panko breadcrumbs can be found, hechshered in most grocery stores.
Chef Laura Frankel is Executive Chef for Spertus Kosher Catering and author of Jewish Cooking for All Seasons, and Jewish Slow Cooker Recipes.