Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Get Yer Groats On: Make Ahead Steel Cut (Irish) Oatmeal

Irish (steel cut) oatmeal with mix-ins: chopped, toasted almonds, un-sulphered, organic dried cranberries, a dash of cinnamon and a sprinkle of granola.
Once it gets chilly, I start thinking about adding oatmeal to my breakfast rotation. A bowl of oatmeal can be delicious, warming and nutritious. If you look at the types of oats available: hulled and whole (whole groats), steel cut (Irish), stone ground (Scottish), rolled, quick-cooking or instant, they are all whole grain and bring the benefits of that with them. The downside to the more highly processed oats is that the more a grain is processed, the easier it is digested which raises its glycemic level. To counteract this, eat your oatmeal with some protein, even adding milk can help.

Steel-cut a/k/a Irish Oats Steel-cut oat can come in several sizes (grades): pinhead (the largest), coarse, medium and fine. Which grade is pictured? I have zero clue, but I suspect pinhead. 

Quick-cooking and instant oats are like rolled oats (rolled and steamed) but rolled thinner and steamed longer. Also, if you buy prepackaged and flavored instant oats, check the ingredients. They often come with a bunch of sugar, fats, preservatives and even some mighty unnatural-sounding "natural" ingredients. I like steel-cut oats for their taste, texture and nuttiness.

I toasted these almonds in the toaster oven this morning, but you can do that ahead of time, or buy pre-roasted nuts.
Even if you stick with making your steel-cut oatmeal from scratch YOUR add-ins: milk, half-and-half or cream, fruit, sugar and butter - to name a few - while delicious, might counter-balance the nutritional pay-off. 

I like the taste of steel-cut (a/k/a Irish) oats but to prepare from scratch takes 30 to 40-ish minutes, including bringing the water to a boil. Soaking steel-cut or stone ground oats the night before cuts the preparation time to 10 minutes, but if you want to cut that down to 3 minutes for one or two servings at a time, this method works well.

I bring water to a boil, add the steel-cut oats and boil - not a furious boil, but more of an "angry simmer" - for 10 minutes, uncovered, stirring a couple of times. After 10 minutes, I turn off the heat, move the pan to a cool burner and put the lid on. Then I let it sit for a couple of hours without removing the lid. After that I pack the oatmeal in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator where it will easily store for 5-7 days. 

RECIPE: MAKE AHEAD STEEL-CUT (IRISH) OATMEAL

Servings: 4-6
  • This method works best when you want to serve one or two people. If you're serving a group, use the link at the end of this recipe to a recipe found on Food and Wine's site ("Method: Feeding a Group: Quicker Cooking Steel Cut Oats by Soaking Overnight")
  • When I am adding items to the oatmeal (fruit, nuts, granola, etc.) I serve about 2/3 - 3/4 cups oatmeal per person.

Ingredients:
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup steel-cut oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Preparation (Make-Ahead)
  1. Bring 4 cups water to a rolling boil in a 2-3 quart pan. Add the salt stir the water and then pour in the steel-cut oats. Stir for a few seconds. 
  2. Adjust the heat so that the mixture is at a low boil. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring a few times.
  3. After 10 minutes, stir once or twice and remove the pan from the heat and cover with a tight-fitting lid and move it to a cool burner. Let this sit for a minimum of and hour (check after one hour) until, well until it looks like oatmeal. Spoon the oatmeal into a container with a tight-fitting lid. You can store this in the refrigerator in an airtight container for 5-7 days.
To Serve:
For each serving, spoon 1/2 to 2/3 cups into a serving bowl. If the oatmeal's too stiff, add liquid by the tablespoon - water, milk (dairy or non- ) and stir until the oatmeal is as loose as you prefer.

Mix-Ins Before Reheating
Dried fruit, fresh fruit (I like grated apple or pear), spices (cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, etc, five-spice powder - go crazy!) to taste, a dash of vanilla (or other) extract. Sugar or some other sweetener as preferred. It's up to you. I don't add them, but if I did I'd use pure maple syrup, brown sugar or fruit preserves.

Cover each bowl and reheat in the microwave on full power for 1 minute. Check after one minute and stir. Return to the microwave and reheat for another minute.

Mix-Ins After Reheating - ENDLESS!
Granola, toasted nuts, toasted coconut, fresh fruit, peanut butter... I could go on.

Method: Feeding a Group: Quicker Cooking Steel Cut Oats by Soaking Overnight

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