Wednesday, 1 June 2011

REDISCOVERING STEEL-CUT OATMEAL

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Steel-cut oats with apples, cinnamon and brown sugar brulee

I’m a breakfast person.   I was never much into instant oatmeal though…the kind you pour out of  individual packages and add water.  My kids love the Peaches ‘n Cream instant oatmeal but it just doesn’t turn me on.

I spotted a huge box of steel-cut oatmeal at Costco last week and became all excited at the prospect of eating something I only faintly remember from early childhood.  I was about 5 years old and my mother had made oatmeal that tasted quite unlike the kind of oatmeal we have today.  It was warming, creamy and had a bit of chew.   Mind you, when I was 5, milk was also delivered by truck to your door by the milkman and if you beat everyone else to the new bottle of whole milk, you could be the lucky one to pop off the paper tab and lick the cream stuck to it.

Gosh. Am I aging myself here?  Today, we can still buy milk in those nostalgic glass bottles but you pay a premium for this…but boy is it good!  Or is it?   Does the milk taste any different?  I dunno.  To me, taste is all wrapped up with kinaesthetic experiences.

To me, pouring milk from those old milk bottles is quite like drinking an ice-cold Coke from a glass bottle…no straw please. 

My vivid memory of drinking a Coke from a bottle occurred during elementary school growing up on the East Side.   There was a mom and pop grocery store located across the street from my school.  Children could go there at lunch and buy candies for a penny.  Back then, there was a thing such as Penny Candy.  Chips were 25cents a bag.   

If you were lucky you had enough for a pop after school.  On a sunny day in June with the sound of children  playing ringing in your ears in the schoolyard after school, you head across the street with your friends to the corner store.   You open the Coke bottle’s cap using the built-in opener situated on the front of the banged-up Soda Fridge: pshhhh! clink!   You walk out of the corner grocery store; the bell attached to the door jingling merrily as you allow it to slam shut as you leave.   You cross the busy street back towards your elementary school, walking all the way home with the cold bottle in your hands--the condensation slowly rendering your hands moist.  The experience of the cold, clear bottle opening on your lips is like no other.  As you tilt the bottle to drink, you accidentally bump your teeth against the glass as you walk and send a singular shot of pain up that nerve in your front tooth.  But oh the stinging joy of that first stream of Cola!  Sweet and cold, burning bubbles beautiful!

I don’t drink much Coke anymore, but I do love my bubbly water.  I make my own club soda with my Penguin Soda Maker.  I must confess, I drink tap-water turned club soda instead of plain ol’ water.  I like bubbles.  I don't like to drink sugar anymore.

Drinking Coke from a bottle, pouring milk from a milk bottle and eating steel-cut oatmeal...these are things that people should experience in childhood.

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My mother’s steel-cut oatmeal was a rare treat for breakfast.  She always served it runny with lots of milk and sugar to taste.   Now I know why she rarely made it.   It takes 30 minutes to prepare on the stovetop.  That’s precious time for mothers getting their kids ready for school.

However, today I’m going to share with you a fantastic way to have your steel-cut oats in short order.  There are even instructions on the back of the box of steel-cut oats telling you to do this.  You simply soak the oats overnight in hot water.  Then it takes you only 10 minutes in the morning to finish cooking it off to your desired consistency on the stovetop.  I go a further step and portion out 1/2 cup servings in tupperware containers in the fridge for heating up in the microwave over the course of the week.    I keep all my fruits and flavourings clear of the plain oatmeal because I like to add that at the last minute.  This gives me a myriad of options for flavouring at my whim each day.   Other people have used rice cookers or crock pots to make big batches ahead of time.  The stove-top method without soaking will take you about 30 minutes.  Either way, after you have portioned everything out, in the morning you simply stir in a little milk of water to loosen it up (as the oatmeal would have congealed into a thick mass), add your flavourings and microwave to heat.  It’s so fast.  I’ll never go back to quick oats again. 

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Steel-cut oats have a chewy, nutty, creamy consistency.  I love the texture.  I particularly like the creaminess that you can achieve without adding any cream. 

My favourite addition to steel-cut oatmeal is apple.  I don’t  make a  pureed applesauce because I like the chunky texture of chopped apples.  In a separate pot, I add chopped up apples, a dot of butter and a sprinkling of cinnamon.  Granny Smiths are great for this…and if you want, you can add a spoonful of brown sugar.  It is totally unnecessary to add sugar though if you have a sweet apple.  Cook down the apples until they are tender.  Store in a sealed glass container in the fridge until you need it.  Serve it like a condiment with your oatmeal.  I add 2 spoonfuls of apples to my oatmeal before I microwave it.   If you’re feeling special, sprinkle brown sugar on top and brulee until golden brown.  It’s so good.  It tastes like apple pie in a bowl.

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STEEL-CUT OATMEAL (OVERNIGHT METHOD)
  • 1 1/2 cups steel-cut oats
  • 6 cups water
  1. Bring water to a boil in a large saucepot.   Turn off heat.  Stir in the steel-cut oats.
  2. Cover the pot with a lid.  Allow to sit covered overnight.
  3. Refrigerate until morning.
  4. In the morning, uncover the pot.  Heat the oatmeal over medium heat, stirring constantly, until desired texture is achieved, about 10 minutes.  You may add additional water or milk to loosen the oatmeal if you wish.
  5. Serve with flavouring options and sweetener. 
  6. Leftovers can be refrigerated:  Portion individual 1/2 cup servings of oatmeal in sealed containers in the refrigerator.   Warm in a microwave-safe bowl (2-3 minutes) with a little milk; stir to bring back consistency.  Serve with flavourings.   Pull out your torch and brulee some sugar on top.
  7. If you want to make a smaller batch, the ratio is 4:1 of water to oatmeal.
Flavour Additions for Steel-Cut Oatmeal:
  • Cooked apples, butter, brown sugar and cinnamon
  • Chopped peaches and cream/milk
  • Sauteed chopped pears
  • Fresh raspberries, any berries and cream/milk
  • Sliced bananas & walnuts
  • Milk, sugar/brown sugar & cinnamon
  • Ground flax, hemp, buckwheat, wheat germ
  • Pineapple and coconut
  • Chopped fresh mango & cream/milk
Optional Sweeteners for Steel-Cut Oatmeal:
  • Brown sugar
  • Agave nectar
  • Manuka honey or any wildflower honey
  • Granulated Sugar

5 comments:

Chris said...

Steelcut oats are a far healthier cereal than all those processed stuff. I soak mine overnite too. I have it with an egg and a sprinkle of shredded coconut and palm sugar(lower glycemic index). Very lucky here in Canada where we have Bulk Barn and can buy anything(almost!) by weight in whatever amounts. Steelcut oats is CAD 79c per pound.

a. maren said...

oh my goodness. how delicious. i am a breakfast person too. i have officially upgraded to rolled oats from packaged, but not yet graduated to steel cut. this will be my next project :)

ps i see azaleas in these pictures! happy northwest spring! :)

Steve Finnell said...

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Connie the Cookie Monster said...

your childhood is what i've always dreamed of experiencing :( and this post is making me want steel cut oats, ive never tried them before!

bokchoy said...

Thank you for introducing steel cut oats to me. It's winter here in Sydney now and porridge is just the perfect breakfast for warming up those chilly mornings. Plus, the kids just love it. Now, where to buy some...

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