Sunday, November 23, 2008

Breakfast Redefined

Thank you food blogging community.

The thing I love most about this blogging adventure is that it's not just about the experimentation, the writing and the photography, but about the collaboration and sharing that is happening, spreading culinary ideas around the globe as fast as people can blog and comment.

Case in point. Steel cut oats with egg. Consider this journey.

It's getting cold, and I've been eating oatmeal more frequently in the mornings, and had worked off last winter's supply. Shopping list in hand, at Trader Joes, I headed over to the oatmeal, and instead of buying the usual rolled oats, I bought the steel cut oats -- which I'd never made before (or even eaten).

Next morning, excited by my new acquisition, I was all set to put in a large bowl, add some water and salt, stick in the microwave for 2.5 minutes, and add some agave nectar and dried fruit -- just like I usually do with my oatmeal. Until I read the directions. Thirty minutes on the stove top. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Stir occasionally. I was NOT going to do that on a weekday morning, so I abandoned my plan, and had a bowl of cold cereal (I was even out of granola, which I often have with milk warmed in the microwave, when I'm not in the mood for oatmeal). I figured the steel cut oats experiment would have to wait until the weekend.

Then I saw this Tea and Food post about savory oatmeal. Encouraging readers (not for the first time) to skip the sweet and revel in the savory at breakfast. Hmmmm. I thought I'd give that a try. As soon as I bought some more of my old standby rolled oats.

In the comments to the original post, though, Karen B mentioned making steel cut oats in a rice cooker. !. I could do that, even on a weekday. Roll out of bed, put oats and water in rice cooker, hit the button, then proceed with other morning activities. A half hour later, my oats would be ready. And indeed they were. For my first foray into steel cut oats, and I decided to take the traditional path. Agave nectar and a banana. Wonderful. Great texture. Great taste. A keeper. The oats did foam a lot, overflowing the top, making a bit of a mess, but not really so bad that I wouldn't do it again.

I mentioned this all to Susan, who said: "Cheesy Grits"! She'd been doing this for years. Grits, cheese, salt and pepper. Perhaps an egg on top. So we proceeded to have that yesterday morning, with that sage cheddar that she hordes whenever she finds it. Delicious. She's always trying to get me to have grits, which I now realize after many grit adventures with Susan is way more tasty than the sorry looking puddle of white tasteless stuff served with eggs and bacon in the South Carolina hotel I stayed at 25 years ago and prejudiced me against grits for a long long time. (We didn't have grits growing up in New York). Someday I'll fill you in on Shrimp and Grits.....but not today.

Today was the day to try the savory steel cut oatmeal, done in the rice cooker. Easy as can be. 1/3 cup of grits. 4/3 cup of water (that's four-thirds). A half hour, and presto. When it's all done, fry up a sunny side up egg, add salt and lots of black pepper, and that's a tasty hearty breakfast. Which I will do again and again. I may even try cooking the egg on top of the oatmeal itself, as Tea and Food's Aaron suggests.

But beyond all this, when I had first read about the rice cooker steel cut oatmeal, I decided to do a little browsing to see if others were on board with this technique, and indeed they were. And some have been using a slow cooker, started the night before, and ready by the time you wake up. That'll be the next experiment. Stay tuned.

So...thanks to Aaron, Karen B. and the forgotten web site that suggested the slow cooker. Breakfast just got a lot more interesting.

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