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Reader Requested Recipe #1

July 21, 2009

In most of the country it is summertime.  And that means hot.  And that usually means things like summer foods.

Cooling glasses of lemonade or something similar.
Grilling outside to keep heat out of the kitchen.
Salad, if you are into that sort of thing.

So on one level I am disinclined to share this recipe now.  On the other hand, a reader, who is also a surfer and spends her early mornings in the frigid waters off the coast of Southern California, has requested it.  (Yes, I know it may not be cold to some, but I grew up in Miami; if it’s not bathwater, it’s cold.)

And if you do happen to live in one of those warmer climates, perhaps you have air conditioning, or maybe it’s not too warm in the morning to make this most delicious breakfast treat.
It’s not just oatmeal.  It’s the best oatmeal I’ve ever had.  And it’s not even all fancy with a lot of ingredients.  The secret is technique.  But it takes a freaking long long long time.  Thirty-minute meals this ain’t.

Just to back up a bit.  The requester gracefullee, put up a post on her blog Look! Up in the Sky! about her fear of oatmeal.
And I could not sit idly by as she maligned this wonderful food.  So perhaps I bragged a bit about how good oatmeal can be if you make it right.  And how wonderful it might be to warm the body after an early morning of surfing.

An outside observer might suggest that I goaded her into asking for the recipe.

There are really two secrets:
1) Steel-cut oats.
2) Toast the oats in butter before simmering them in a mixture of water and milk.

This is yet another technique straight out of Cooks Illustrated.  I urge you, yet again, if you are not a paid subscriber to their online site, to do it now.  It is truly a wonderful resource.

Here is what you do.  You take three cups of water and one cup of milk, and put them in a big saucepan.  The recipe calls for whole milk, but I have used skim without catastrophic failure.  Gently bring the liquid to a simmer.  This part will go faster if you cover the pan.

In a cast iron skillet melt a generous tablespoon of butter.  Then stir in a cup of steel-cut oats.  Keep stirring as they toast on medium heat, until they are golden.  You want them toasted, not burnt.  Recently I have been observed using a buttery olive oil for this step, with reasonably good results.  But butter is better.

When the oats are nice and toasty, dump them into the simmering liquid.  Gently simmer uncovered on about medium-low for about twenty minutes, until the oatmeal “resembles gravy.”

Add ¼ teaspoon of salt and stir occasionally until almost all the liquid is gone and the oatmeal has achieved a “pudding-like consistency” which you might expect to see after seven to ten minutes.  I usually simmer mine quite slowly, so everything takes even longer.

When it’s done, take it off the heat, and let it sit uncovered for about five minutes.  This will give you time to get my favorite topping – dark brown sugar.

I love the way the sugar crumbles.  I poke some of the clumps of brown sugar beneath the surface of my bowl.  And as I am eating, I get to encounter several joyful pockets of molten brown sugar.

The only downside to this recipe, besides the time it takes to prepare: it will ruin you for all other oatmeal forever.


10 Comments leave one →
  1. Vanessa permalink
    July 21, 2009 10:44 am

    Agreed,steel cut oats are the most yummy of breakfast food, and will ruin you for other oatmeal. I have never tried to saute the oats first..but sounds brilliant. Similar to my rice pilaf that I make with basmati and orzo..saute in butter first…and without question..butter is ALWAYS better!

    • Tonia permalink
      July 21, 2009 11:19 am

      I agree with V!

      I don’t know why the fear of oatmeal. It is so yummy and warming if done right. I will have to try this method.

  2. July 21, 2009 11:50 am

    I just don’t get the enjoyment of that gelatinous texture. Why would one possibly want to eat oatmeal when you could have some perfectly delicious oat-y granola without the “ewww” factor. Is this seriously your favorite breakfast? You need to get your butt to Chicago for my buttermilk pancakes and snausages.

  3. Jerry permalink
    July 21, 2009 12:01 pm

    Many people my age eat oatmeal to lower cholesterol or other health-related reasons. This means mix with water, boil, eat. To me, this tastes like snotty glue. So I like it with butter, salt, brown sugar, and cream, but then it is definitely NOT good for you any more. As a result of this conundrum, I don’t eat it.

  4. July 21, 2009 12:56 pm

    i, too, love the way brown sugar melts into oatmeal. after cinnamon, it’s the most important component. great method–hopefully this foolishness of being afraid of oatmeal will be ancient history!

  5. July 21, 2009 5:26 pm

    Wait, in which parts of the country is it NOT summertime?

  6. July 21, 2009 6:57 pm

    Thanks Mr. Fussy! I look forward to trying it out. It is actually quite warm here now, though the water temps are in the upper 60s.

    My problem is I don’t really have much of a sweet tooth. For breakfast, I prefer cheesy or salty grits, eggs done any way, and bacon… bacon goes without saying.

  7. Aron permalink
    September 3, 2009 11:57 am

    So, I’m spending the week at home doing chores around the house and chillin, and this morning I made this oatmeal.


    It should have a different name. It is so superior to standard oatmeal that the two should not be considered the same item of food.

  8. November 4, 2009 12:00 pm

    Okay, I finally made this oatmeal.

    It is awesome. You have a convert.

  9. November 23, 2009 8:44 am

    OK, Daniel, I finally tried your oatmeal recipe this morning. I added cranberries I bought at the farmers market in Quebec City (still kicking myself for not buying more). The verdict: very good. Thanks!


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