May 15, 2014

Recipe: Creamy Steel-Cut Oatmeal (Steel-Cut Oats Porridge)

Bodies handle stress differently. When I get stressed, I lose my appetite for healthy foods. This usually results in my falling back on a small number of "comfort foods" that are actually junk food (salty takeout, fatty pizza, all desserts ever) until my stress reduces and the desire for real food returns. As you might have guessed, planning a cross-country move and selling our house in a short number of weeks is making me mighty stressed.

In an attempt to keep my diet on track, I've been starting my mornings with a bowl of oatmeal. Not just any oatmeal, however. I've been making a veganized version of Megan Gordon's steel-cut oatmeal from her wonderful book, Whole Grain Mornings. Oatmeal has always been a breakfast workhorse, one of those unexciting-but-good-for-you dishes you eat because you should, not because you wake up craving it. But Megan's oatmeal is different. Megan's oatmeal is, dare I say it, crave-able.

Sautéing the uncooked oats in a bit of nondairy butter perfumes the oatmeal with a toasty aroma and amplifies the pleasant chew that steel-cut oats are known for. After toasting, the oats are simmered in a 3:1 mixture of water and nondairy milk seasoned with a touch of sugar, vanilla, and salt. What you end up with is perfectly cooked, luxuriously creamy oatmeal (or "porridge", as Megan calls it).

The consistency of this lovely oat porridge is risotto-like, with magical starch-infused "cream" lending an illusion of richness despite the recipe's scant amounts of butter and milk. I make a batch, pop it in the fridge after it's cooled, and reheat servings in the microwave for stress-free, nutrition-filled breakfasts all week long. A bowl of these creamy oats topped with a pile of fresh berries and a drizzle of maple syrup is just the thing to fuel me through a day of crazed, move-related shenanigans.

Creamy Steel-Cut Oatmeal (Steel-Cut Oats Porridge)
Adapted from Whole Grain Mornings (Megan shared a version of the recipe here)
Serves 4

1 tablespoon non-dairy butter or coconut oil
1 cup steel-cut oats
3 cups water
1 cup non-dairy milk
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4-1/2 teaspoon kosher salt*
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

*If using nondairy butter, add 1/4 teaspoon salt; if using coconut oil, add 1/2 teaspoon salt

Bring a good-sized saucepan over medium heat and add the butter. Once butter is bubbling, add oats and toast, stirring occasionally, until golden and fragrant (about 5 minutes).  Add water, milk, sugar, salt, and vanilla to the saucepan and increase heat to medium-high and partially cover the pan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered, for 25 to 30 minutes or until the oatmeal is creamy and oats have a tender bite. Be sure to stir oatmeal occasionally while simmering and keep an eye on the heat as the oatmeal has a tendency to boil over with little notice. Cool for a few minutes before serving as desired (with milk/maple syrup/fruit/nuts); oatmeal can also be refrigerated and then reheated in the microwave with a splash of milk to thin it if needed. 

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