When I was a kid, I hated hot oatmeal. I didn’t like the mushy texture combined with the overwhelming sweetness of the toppings that are often added to give the bland oats some flavor. However, this recipe changed what I think of oatmeal; it makes oatmeal that is slightly creamy, has texture, and a pinch of salt makes it just barely savory. The old-fashioned oats and a couple tablespoons of half-and-half give it a creamy base and the steal-cut oats add a chewy texture. Now I eat oatmeal regularly.
Oatmeal is really easy to make and since oats keep well, it is easy to keep oats around for anytime that you want this dish. The amount of chewiness can be adjusted by how long you cook them; longer cooking produces softer oatmeal. The quantities can easily be multiplied to produce more than one serving. You can top the oatmeal with any toppings of your choosing, though I prefer oatmeal plain since I don’t like very sweet things.
Source: The recipe is based on “April Bloomfield’s Porridge” posted on TheWednesdayChef.com; the original recipe uses whole milk but since I normally have half-and-half around for my coffee, my version uses half-and-half instead.
Oatmeal made from Steel Cut Oats and Regular Rolled Oats
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- 1/4 cup steel-cut oats
- 1/4 cup rolled (not quick-cooking) oats
- 2 Tbsp half-and-half
- (optional) your choice of toppings
Bring the water and salt to a simmer over high heat (but don’t add the half-and-half yet; water with half-and-half has a tendency to bubble up quickly once it starts to boiling and may boil over if it isn’t watched carefully). Add only 1/2 tsp salt at this stage–adding more salt than this at the beginning of cooking inhibits the grains from softening.
As soon as the water comes to a full boil, stir in the oats and half-and-half. Return to a simmer and reduce heat to low to maintain a bare simmer (so the liquid doesn’t evaporate too quickly and because cooking the rolled oats at a full boil seems to make them gluey). Adjust heat as necessary to maintain the bare simmer. Stir it after 10 to 15 minutes; make sure that you gently scrape the oatmeal everywhere it touches the bottom of the pot to help prevent sticking. As the oatmeal thickens, it will start to boil more. Reduce heat as necessary to maintain a bare simmer. The oats will continue to soften as the more they cook.
After about 20 minutes, the oatmeal will start to thicken more quickly. At this point, you should to watch it more carefully and stir it occasionally to prevent sticking and to distribute the starch that has been released from the oats. During this time, taste and add more salt if needed–be careful since the oatmeal is hot; let a bite of the oatmeal cool in a spoon for a minute before tasting. (Most people prefer to not have the salt noticeable in their oatmeal, but I like my oatmeal to taste slightly salty so I usually add at least another 1/2 tsp Diamond Crystal salt.). Continue to cook until the steel-cut oats to soften to a lightly chewy texture and for the liquid parts make a sauce which coats the steel-cut oat grains (about the consistency of heavy cream or crepe batter)–about 25 minutes total cooking time. Taste and cook the oatmeal until you like the texture and amount of bite they have. If the liquid in your oatmeal is too thin, give it another stir (stirring it helps to thicken it since it releases the starch from the rolled oats) and cook it for slightly longer to help evaporate it. If it is too chewy, continue cooking for a few more minutes. Add more water if the mixture sticks a lot, or gets too thick or dry.
Serve immediately while piping hot, either as-is or with the toppings of your choice. It may thicken slightly a couple minutes after it is removed from the heat.