I know not everyone shares my affection for porridge, but oatmeal seems to bridge that gap as an acceptable form of breakfast.
There are a few constants in every bowl of oatmeal I make. One, I only use steel-cut oats (whole grain oats that have been cut). Though they add time to the cooking process, the end result has much more texture and chew than those bloated little rolled oat flakes. Secondly, I always add a dash of salt, which brings out all the other flavors and balances the sweetness. Finally (unless I’m making Bailey’s oatmeal), I like to add a drizzle of soy milk at the last moment, which thins out the oatmeal and adds a little (guiltless) creaminess.
How to make steel-cut oats for one:
Heat 1 1/2 cups of water to a boil with a pinch of kosher salt in a small saucepan. Stirring constantly, add 1/2 cup steel-cut oats, and reduce the heat to medium low. Simmer, stirring often to prevent boil-over and sticking, for 10 to 12 minutes until the oats have thickened and much of the liquid has evaporated. Stir in desired toppings and a finish with a splash of milk or cream. (Just promise me you won’t use skim milk here. You might as well just add more water.)
My three favorite toppers:
Peanut butter and honey
When I was a kid, one of my favorite lunches was an open-faced peanut butter and honey sandwich, known to my sister and me as “birthday cake style.” Last week, I was craving a PB&H for breakfast but was out of bread, so I thought I’d make PB&H oatmeal. Turns out, it’s genius! It combines everything I love about this sandwich, and the milk addition mimics the perfect companion to any PB&H: a glass of cold milk.
During the last minute of cooking the oats, stir in 2 tablespoons of chunky peanut butter and 1 1/2 tablespoons of honey until combined. Spoon into a bowl and top with a splash of milk.
Walnuts, dried fruit and sea salt
This version is all about texture–chewy dried fruit, the chalky crunch of walnuts and tiny pockets of salt from flaky sea salt crystals. My fruit of choice is dried cherries because they have a nice chew, but any dried fruit will do here.
Stir in a quarter cup of dried fruit during the last few minutes of the cooking process, to help it reconstitute. Once the oats are cooked, stir in a tablespoon or two of brown sugar (to taste) and a quarter cup of chopped walnuts. Spoon into a bowl and top with 1/8 teaspoon of flaky sea salt and a splash of milk.
A splash of Bailey’s
OK, maybe save this version for a Saturday or Sunday morning, when your biggest ambition for the day is to take a long nap. This topper is inspired by breakfast at the Petra House B&B in Galway City, where Sean, two dear friends and I spent a few days when we were in Ireland two years ago. It’s owned by Frank Maher, a retired military man, and his wife Joan, who does all the cooking. Every morning, Frank served us a hearty breakfast from scratch on beautiful, vintage English china.
Our last day there, Paul ordered the oatmeal with Bailey’s Irish Cream, which we’d been collectively eyeing the previous few mornings. It sounds weird, but the rich cream, sweetness and boozy kick make for one decadent bowl of oatmeal. Just try it…
Spoon cooked oats into a bowl and top with 1 1/2 ounces of Bailey’s Irish Cream.