Friday, April 3, 2009

What I Had for Breakfast: Gourmet Gruel

Here are three simple pieces of advice for turning that, "I'm so bored, please kill me," bowl of oatmeal, into something special.

First, use "steel-cut" oatmeal instead of those rolled oats. The difference between steel-cut and regular oatmeal is like the difference between a walk on the beach, and standing in line at the DMV. The superior texture and taste of steel-cut, with basically the same cooking time, makes this a must-try.

Second, find some grade "B" maple syrup. To me it tastes more maple-y than the standard supermarket grade "A." I get mine at Trader Joes, but you should be able to find it somewhere close. I had heard it was better tasting long ago, but never bothered to try it until recently. I'll never get those wasted years back.

Finally, put some real, unsalted, sweet, creamy butter on top. The thin slice of butter you see here (only 1/2 teaspoon), slowly melting into the hot oats, mocking you with its luxurious sheen, has exactly 16 calories.

Hey dieters, why turn a delicious breakfast into prison food to save 16 calories? It doesn't make any sense. Enjoy!

33 comments:

Sky Peace said...

That bowl of oatmeal looks incredible!

Dan said...

I absolutely adore oatmeal. Once I had steel-cut oats, I never even looked at rolled oats again.
Real maple syrup and oatmeal are born to be together!

Anonymous said...

I've been sitting here feeling hungry but not sure what I really wanted to eat. Somehow, you knew! I'm going to make that RIGHT NOW. No kidding. Here I go...

No Boobs Oatmeal-I prefer the flat-chested variety said...

We had this type of oatmeal the other morning, but I am so accustomed to the flat cut that this one actually tasted like something other than oatmeal. The flavor reminded me of a nubby multi-grain, good, but not what my palate is used to when diving into a bowl of hot oatmeal. I prefer my regular programmed "taste" for oatmeal, but I won't waste the new box of steel cut. BTW, there is no difference nutritionally, so it just becomes a matter of taste as to which is superior. We cook the flat cut just until it's softened, yet still flaky looking, because the mushy texture is not my idea of a good bowl of oatmeal, either, but not all brands come out so well. Trader Joes flat cut is excellent.

My grandfather ate oatmeal every morning. His habit was to top it with a layer of crumbled saltines, some sugar and milk. Guess what, he died in his late 60's of arteriosclerosis, probably from those damn saltines!

Anonymous said...

Oh my, I do believe a can of worms may have just been opened.

Anonymous said...

I'm with "NO BOOBS OATMEAL". The steel cut is okay but it's not how I see oatmeal. By the way, I think the best oatmeal is Snoqualmie Falls Lodge. It's thicker cut and so good. I'm not sure but I think it's only sold in Washington state.
I've always eaten it with brown sugar and cream which is yummy but I will try the Grade B maple syrup if I can find it-so far I've had no luck with that.
And I will try steel cut one more time just in case my tastes have matured.
Thanks
Jackie

Beckie said...

Three cheers for oatmeal! Always been a breakfast favorite. I remember my dad calling it "mush" when I was a little girl...but I think that's what he called all the warm cereals: Zoom, Cream of Wheat, etc.
I was born and raised in the U.S. but now live in the Dominican Republic:
Dominican Oatmeal (Avena Dominicana):
Heat water with a stick of cinnamon and allspice (nutmeg and clove optional). Since most Dominicans here drink powdered full cream milk, boiling the water before adding the powdered milk pulls all the flavors of the spices into the water. If using already prepared milk boil a small amount of water with the spices before adding the milk. Add milk, oats, brown sugar, a pinch of salt, a tablespoon of butter (yumm!), and lime zest (optional). Dominicans boil this to death and the end result is creamy and smooth because you're cooking the oats in milk instead of just water. It shouldn't be soupy and it shouldn't be stiff. Buen provecho! =)

Lee said...

Thought I will try your oatmeal, my favorite (and to me, best) way of making oatmeal is to use apple cider instead of most of the water. How much you use depends on how good or flavorful your cider is.

Last summer I bought a half gallon of peach cider and reduced it down to about a cup. Now that's some goodness on oatmeal, too...

Brucifer said...

Steel cut oats have more fiber and a lower glycemic index.

Not so... said...

Maybe you are comparing two separate brands?

I'm looked at the Nutritional "Facts" on the back of two containers of Country Choice Oatmeal - one Steel Cut and the other Old Fashioned and the amounts of everything listed are exactly the same. Same Fiber, Sugar, Protein, Fat, etc.

Chef John said...

would depend on how they are being compared... by weight or volume. rolled and steel do not weight the same by volume. rolled are lighter, so by the cup, steel has more fiber, calories, etc.

Not so... said...

The comparison is by serving size, and lacking a lab and scales to break down ingredients, that's about the only thing a home cook can use when comparing products.

Chef John said...

yes, exactly, just wanted to give a heads-up that 1/4 cup of raw oatmeal will vary nutritionally for each type. I'm saying you are both right. Oatmeal is oatmeal, but how it's processed and sold will explain the numbers not matching up on some packages.

Fake Boobs Oatmeal said...

I like Frosted Flakes!

manzal said...

At last! Someone who eats oatmeal the way I did growing up! Ours was always cooked in milk, which makes it creamy, and then topped with butter. My mother liked it that way with salt. We kids always drowned it in syrup. You've made me hungry for one of my favorite childhood comfort foods!

Anonymous said...

Fried eggs or pancakes, anyone?

French Canadian said...

B grade maple syrup o.0 eeks

I may be spoiled but grade a ... clear or light (not medium) is a must ... b grade is usually the last dredges of sap of the sugar run .. its bitter and has a tendency to burn at a lower temperature ... I find it has a burnt taste ... ick

Chef John said...

not sure what you're tasting, but the syrup I use tastes great! maybe it's a French Canadian thing.

Don Madrid said...

The Brits have a product called Golden Syrup. Its made during the sugar refining process. Really good on oatmeal as it has a flavor somewhere between maple syrup and caramel. Hard to describe but if you come across it buy a tin (it still comes in a tin) and give it a go.

Chef John said...

anything called "golden syrup" has to be good.

granny said...

Don Madrid, when I come to visit I want to experience your famous oatmeal with that Golden Syrup. Why am I packing all that maple syrup from the states? Love Mom

Brucifer said...

Yumm lyle's...

http://www.amazon.com/Tate-Lyles-Golden-Syrup-454g/dp/B000BTB66M

I've found it here in the states in glass jars at an upscale grocer.

Stephanie said...

I've been eating steel-cut oats for about a year now... and all I ever did was throw some frozen blueberries in.

But... this picture.. makes them look naughty.. with butter, and syrup... naughty, naughty oats... must bring you home with me...

Chef John said...

best oatmeal pick-up line ever

Barb in CA said...

I've tried steel-cut oats but they never seem to get cooked through, there's always a "nub" that stays hard and makes the cereal gritty. On the other hand, I love old-fashioned rolled oats, especially the extra-thick ones you can buy in bulk, cheap, from a health-food store (take that, Quaker!).

My oatmeal cooking ritual (for one large serving):
Bring 1 1/2 C. water to a boil, add 1 T. raisins, 3/4 C. rolled oats and 1 T. Grape Nuts cereal (the Secret Ingredient). Stir, cover and turn down the stove. Cook without stirring for about 10 minutes. Surface of oatmeal will have holes, like when you cook rice. Turn off heat, let sit for about 10 more minutes.
Now you have oatmeal that is thick but not sticky, and it can actually be "unmolded" into your serving dish without a spoon. I usually top with brown sugar and soy milk.

Anonymous said...

Chef John - I just stumbled across your site and I'm already in food love heaven. I'd like to concur about Trader Joe's Grade B syrup. I don't think I'll go back to anything else. I won't go back to the flat stuff either if I don't have to (rolled oats). Steel cut is definitely where it's at. I have one friend that prefers his steel cut oats served "savory" instead of sweet by adding spices and a bit of heat with some chili pepper.

My new fave however, is oat groats (the whole grain). If I soak some overnight, it cooks up in about 20 minutes in the morning (I'll be showered and almost ready in that time). I will add freshly ground flax seeds, almonds or pecans, some fruit (whatever is on hand), a bit of cinnamon, and of course - the maple syrup. Sticks with me for hours, and my insides appreciate it. It's on the earthy side, but a nice alternative. Sometimes I'll top with some yogurt, too.

Matt said...

Now who here has tried condensed milk with their oatmeal? If you have some lying around, please, please try it mixed in with oatmeal, it taste sooooooo good! I usually mix in some condensed milk, then bit some good quality muscovado sugar on top, bloomin' gorgeous :)

Beckie said...

MATT,
Condensed milk in oatmeal is the BEST!!! I posted about Dominican style oatmeal above. Take a look! They use regular milk when their pocket books can't afford condensed milk...but really, it's so much creamier and gives it a deeper flavor than just water or regular milk or cream. Good call!

Livia said...

I haven't tried the steel-cut version yet.
As for spicing it: the sweet version with home-made strawberry jam; the salty version with soy sauce and diced breakfast sausage.
I cook both in milk, that's how I got used to it, cooking them in water makes them taste watered-up to me.

Karen said...

You are so totally right about the butter!

Anonymous said...

I cook a big batch of oatmeal and we eat it for several days. The water goes in first (10 cups), liberal dose of cinnamon, a bit of non-processed salt, raisins, minced prunes, chopped dried apricots (the best part!) and a few chopped dates (if I have them). Stir until cinnamon is incorporated. Bring to boil, add 5 cups old fashioned oats (haven't tried steel cut). Cook for 5 min., stirring once in a while. Remove from heat, cover and let set for 5 minutes. It's the directions on the box as I'm sure you know. When it's hot, we do add real butter on top and some of our cream off the top of our raw cow milk. When it's cold, I warm it up with some milk but my husband prefers it cold. With the dried fruit, it sweetens the oats enough for us that we don't need to add brown sugar or syrup. This batch lasts us for about a week so I'm not having to cook every morning.

Krista said...

If you want a kid-pleaser, try mixing some peanut butter, honey & cinnamon into your cooked oats. It is fabulous!

Mark Anderson said...

You put sweets on your oatmeal? Really!?
Butter, salt, pepper--"a little cayenne"--and maybe some chopped nuts, and I'm good.