FOOD: Trending on the Fall Table

I recently learned I can bake chicken and ribs in a crock pot. It changed my world. Where has this little tidbit of culinary secrecy been hiding all my life? Mom never did it. Sure, mainstays like soup, stew, chili and roast have always been slow-cooker hits. But who knew this handy vessel had undercover talents beyond its soup and cheese dip-warming capabilities?

Crock Pot StewAs it turns out, my accidental brilliance is no secret to real cooks. They’re on top of it and have seized one of the fall season’s tastiest trends—finding new ways to make anything and everything in the slow cooker. Fruit, pudding, cake, breakfast casseroles and endless meat and veggie combos laden with savory ingredients top the experimental list. Something about this delayed, deliberate form of cooking just seems to deepen the flavor of foods. And being greeted with a rich aroma from a bubbling crock pot when you walk in the door on a cold day—priceless. It’s almost as gratifying as pulling on your favorite sweatshirt and spooning up the first bite of these one-pot wonders.

On menus and in kitchens across the nation, several enticing food trends beg us to cozy up to a delicious new bounty of fall fare, ripe for enjoyment.

Ramen 2.0

Before you have a destitute college flashback moment at the mere mention of the ‘R’ word, give this Japanese noodle a second chance. After all, it got you through late night study groups, monstrous roommates and first loves gone bad. Ramen is due its rightful comeback.

In the past couple of years, chefs in culinary-conscious cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles have spun this springy carb into a raging new delicacy, far from the slurp-simple sustenance of its bygone persona. Like a hearty blank canvas, Ramen noodles set the scene for a parade of flavorful show-offs to shine. Chicken broth, mushrooms, ginger, soy sauce, spinach, onions and pork offer countless ways to upgrade this familiar throwback into a fancy new invention. Clever chefs have even taken it to new heights with Ramen noodle hamburger ‘buns’ and Ramen-crusted chicken wings.

Cauliflower, the New Superfood

Who says all things delicious have to be deep-fried or sugar-coated? We live in an era of refined, healthy delights where even veggies can rise above their side-dish role and take center stage. Heralded as the new kale, cauliflower is low-fat and loaded with Vitamins C, K and B6. It’s more fun than a Flintstones chewable. Even kale-loyal hipsters are discovering the meaty abundance of this versatile veggie. When roasted, cauliflower’s sugar content intensifies, caramelizing into a crunchy texture. Excellent when mashed and hearty when finessed into creamy soup, cauliflower brings a wealth of easy nourishment to the table.

Comfort with Class

Craft Mac & CheeseFace it, there’s never a bad time for comfort food. Mashed potatoes and gravy, macaroni and cheese—they cushion a rough day in the most medicinal way. This season, chefs are using gourmet ingredients to elevate the simple indulgences to classy new attractions. A dab of Grey Poupon or fancy salt, a handful of locally grown mushrooms, a wedge of fine cheese or some spicy sausage or salami adds exciting new layers of flavor to classic comfort dishes.

I don’t know what happened to the fried chicken or cheesecake movements we once embraced, but healthy is an unstoppable new ‘norm,’ rippling through every cuisine in restaurants and recipes. The craze continues this fall with alternative grains like quinoa and spelt replacing potatoes, veggies like beets and parsnips showing up in desserts and everything finding its gluten-free alter ego, save only the complimentary breath mint after your meal. But don’t despair. One fun trend this fall is the cookie shooter—a chocolate chip cookie cup lined with melted chocolate candy and filled with vanilla milk. The quintessential comfort, full of gluten and no veggies. Life is good again.

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