Porridge, gruel. Whatever you want to call it. We often just call it oats. Do you love it? Do you hate it? I don’t think there’s too much of a middle ground with oatmeal. Take my dad, in the love-it camp: five mornings a week (held over from his working years) he can’t start his morning without a bowl of oatmeal. On family holidays, mornings aren’t complete without his question: who will have oatmeal? He’ll whip up a quadruple batch for the crowd and then try to negotiate the last, unwanted, semi-cold serving into whoever’s stomach he can. As I write this, the image of him walking around the house with the almost-empty oatmeal pot, questioning everyone hopefully…well, it makes me nostaglic. For oats. And for my dad.
But I digress. Sort of. Maybe everyone has at least one oatmeal story.
I want to talk about steel cut oats (isn’t it exciting!) because I love them more than the old rolled variety. I like the texture and less-processed quality of them, although I still use rolled oats for making granola and baked goods. (You can also make granola with steel cut oats, though.) The biggest issue with steel cut oats is how long they take to cook. I sometimes soak them overnight in water and that cuts the cooking time by half, but they don’t taste as good as my new favourite Most Excellent Steel Cut Oatmeal Recipe.
The other part of the method that I love, for obvious reasons, is you toast the grains in butter. Butter. Like the first step of making risotto! How can that not make the most delicious oatmeal ever?
Whoa, this post is wandering all over the place. Sorry–I get distracted by butter–back to the long cooking time. So, I wanted my oats in the morning, but I didn’t want to wait 40 minutes for them to cook. So I got to thinking: maybe I could freeze the oatmeal once I’d cooked it. I love my freezer. I want to be an excellent canner or dehydrator person, but I am not. I freeze things. It’s easy; the freeze does all the work.
So I made a huge batch of the Best Oatmeal Ever and spooned it into muffin cups, then popped those in the freezer. After a quick warm-water bath to loosen the frozen oatmeal pucks, they were bagged and back in the freezer. And voila! Pre-portioned, easily thawed oatmeal! It heats up beautifully and is, I dare say, even more tender than when just cooked. I was quite pleased with myself. Until I learned that I’m not the first person to come up with this idea (thanks, Internet!). Oh well. Great minds, right? And great oatmeal.
The (you must try this!) Best Steel Cut Oatmeal
Slightly adapted from Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup steel cut oats
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
milk or cream (see below)
Melt the butter in a medium sized pot over medium heat. Add the oats and salt. Stir the grains fairly often until they start to toast and smell nutty. Watch them carefully because they can scorch easily. They won’t all be the same colour; it’s okay if some are not toasty-looking. Add three cups of water to the oats and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 25 minutes, stirring frequently. Once all the liquid has been absorbed, add a cup of milk (or add four cups of water instead of the three) and cook for another five minutes. You can add more liquid if your oats are thicker than you like. Boyce suggests using only water to cook the oats, and then spooning cold cream onto them when served. This sounds awesome to me, but I happen to have milk on hand all the time and cream only sometimes.
If you want to freeze the oatmeal, you don’t have to wait until it’s completely cooled to fill the muffin cups, but I don’t recommend putting hot oatmeal into your freezer.
So now, the most important question: What do you like to put on your oatmeal?
My answer: maple syrup or apple butter, fruit, hemp seeds.