1.26.2012

Oatmeal or Porridge or Sludge

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Dear Readers,
This is a story of how the husband got me to eat breakfast. And like it. As I've mentioned before, I'm not a big breakfast person. I try, but I can't say I succeed. Often, breakfast feels like a chore. However, that's recently changed, all due to the husband's sludge. Now I eat it for breakfast daily, topped with a teaspoon of jam, with a smile on my face. Absolutely delicious. And did I mention I do not like oatmeal? This sludge here, may look like oatmeal, but it's something special. The texture is my favorite part. Enjoy the husband's post, and I hope you give these oats a try.

-KK

“What are you making?” the wife asked as she looked over my shoulder to the pot cooking on the stove, pausing momentarily before answering her own question with a teasing tone, “Is it sludge?”  Even though the wife doesn’t particularly care for hot or cold breakfast cereals, these cooked steel-cut oats deserved much more respect than they got.  She could have called it “porridge,” maybe even “gruel” would have been permissible.  But the first time I ever cooked the stuff, she christened it “sludge,” and the name has since stuck.  

About a year before, I purchased McCann’s Irish Oats from Trader Joes and was immediately intimidated by its cooking procedure. Not only did it call for 4 cups of water to cook a single cup of oats, but it took 35 minutes to make. This was counter to my experience of making oatmeal in a microwave for a mere 35 seconds.  The wife and I ended up using the tin as a decorative piece on a kitchen shelf:
The tin would have probably sat there for the rest of our stay at in Altadena if not for our East coast trip last year.  While staying in Sommerville, we were taken to a jazz brunch at a place called Johnnie D’s.  Amid jazz guitar renditions of Radiohead and the Flaming lips, our fancy brunch plates were served, each with a side of oatmeal.  Not just any standard, everyday oatmeal, either.  This was easily the best oatmeal the wife and I had ever tasted.  Brown sugar sweetened each bite of the cinnamon-kissed oatmeal, which possessed a maltiness I never knew the grain possessed.  It was sort of like rice pudding in its depth of flavor, but much hardier.

When I got back home from the trip, I had an epiphany one weekend.  That oatmeal had to be made by steel oats!  So one Sunday morning, I got a footstool and pulled the tin down from the shelf and dusted the top off.  I followed the instructions, and that’s when the wife came in and offered her aforementioned words about sludge.  My hunch was correct—it was steel-cut oats that made the difference.    

Though I doubt the term “sludge” is going away any time soon, one thing that did change since that first batch is the wife’s taste for oats.  She begrudgingly took it to work a few times.  Then, one day when I took the last bit of it for my own work day, she complained that she missed eating it for breakfast.  That was my oatmeal-making green light.   

I started making large batches on the weekend to make up for the long cooking time, and quite honestly, it’s very easy to make once you’re used to it.  And it reheats in a microwave well.  I found that adding an extra cup of half and half created a richer oatmeal.  So from this basic recipe, you can essentially add anything you’d like to fancy it up: raisins, dried cranberries, caramelized bananas, etc.  Now on the weekends when the wife wakes up now, she comes to see what I’m making and asks, “You’re making the sludge, right?”  Maybe one day she’ll call it oatmeal, but for now, I’m just glad she enjoys eating it.
Sludge

Steel-cut oats
half and half
water
dried fruits
jam (optional)

1) Boil four cups of water
2) Add one cup of oatmeal, stirring well.
3) When the porridge is smooth and beginning to thicken, reduce heat, add the cup of half and half (or if you’re feeling decadent, use whipping cream), and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.   
4) Add your dried fruits during the last few minutes.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, I hate that abismal old fashioned rolled oats hot cereal, which could be used as a papermache wheat paste stand in, but I LOVE steel cut oats! My favorite additive is dried cranberries. My husband and older son won't try them, but my young son (a chocoholic at birth) might try them with chocolate chips mixed in, mmm...chocolate chips! I know what I'm having for breakfast tomorrow - thanks for the great article!

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