Tuesday, March 13, 2012

"What's the big deal?": Steel cut oatmeal

Way back in college, I heard Oprah making the Biggest Deal Ever about steel cut oatmeal.  The only person more excited than her about this magic cereal was her personal trainer, Bob Green.  Seven years later, I have finally gotten around to buying and making this stuff and *drumroll!* it really is as good as Oprah said it would be.

But, is Oprah ever wrong? Of course not. Don't be silly.

I've been meaning to buy steel cut oats for years, but every time I look at the price tag, I can't help but think, "Why bother?"  It's always $4 for a smallish box and it always strikes me as a total waste of money.  Finally, a place called the Head Nut opened in West Chester.  (Be careful if you click on the link--it plays Charlie Brown music really loud.)  They sell everything from coffee to wasabi peas to almonds in bulk and everything's pretty cheap.  The other day, after an initial trial run with a smaller batch of steel cut oats, I bought three freakin pounds of the stuff for $2.40--no regrets yet.

The one drawback with these little grains is the time investment: They cook on the stove for about 35-40 minutes when it's all said and done.  But as soon as they're finished, you can let them cool before storing them in the fridge for the week or freezing individual portions for later.  I use Alton Brown's recipe with a few changes.

It's really easy to double or halve this recipe--I've done it both ways and it's foolproof. This is a double recipe in these pictures.  Initially, you toast the oats in (just a little bit of) butter while you wait for your water to boil in the kettle. The water boils, add it to the oats (everything will bubble and foam in a sorta scary way), and then turn the heat down to an easy simmer and set your timer for 15 minutes for a half recipe, 25 minutes for a single recipe, and 35 minutes for a double recipe.  Once it's clear that most of the water's been absorbed, time to add your milk and buttermilk. (I use 1% milk--clearly, Alton's not a woman living in a world obsessed with jean size.)

Stir in the milk and buttermilk, and then I add 1 tsp of cinnamon for a half recipe, 2 tsp for single recipe or double recipe.  I don't like oatmeal to be overly sweet, but it can't be totally unsweetened (in my opinion). I add 2 T of brown sugar and 2 T of maple syrup (the real stuff--not Log Cabin or whatever) to a half recipe, 4 T of each to a single recipe, and 6 T of brown sugar and 4 T of syrup to a double recipe.  I also grate just a little bit of nutmeg too.  I haven't tried it yet, but I'm thinking almond milk would work really well if you want to go dairy-free.

Once everything is warmed through, you're done.  It's so easy to refrigerate the whole batch and microwave individual portions throughout the week.

Of course, don't forget the nuts.  I like raw almonds and walnuts and (sometimes) craisins, but not usually.

Also, if you find yourself battling a cold anytime soon (big thanks to my mom's family for my latest cold) I would recommend this cocktail which is closest thing to Italian blood orange juice that I can find.  This is just OJ mixed with completely unsweetened cranberry juice.  Let me tell you: unsweetened cranberry juice is so nasty that it made me gag--Ron bought it by mistake a few weeks ago and we were too lazy to return it (unopened of course).  Mixed with orange juice, however, it's pretty amazing.  And, quite simply, really pretty.

So there you have it: Oprah and Bob, you were right. Steel cut oats are AWESOME.  I'm a fool for doubting you.


Erin S said...

I agree, steel cut oats are awesome! In fact I'm eating a bowl for breakfast as I write this comment. My latest addiction is cooking oats in the slow cooker overnight with grated apple, applesauce, vanilla, and flaxseed. Nothing beats a warm breakfast waiting when you wake up in the morning :)

Jo Harper said...

I need to try this applesauce addition--I keep forgetting to buy it at the store!