Savory oatmeal, where have you been all my life?

savory oatmeal with grated cheese, sliced scallions, and paprika sprinkled on top

The word ‘oatmeal’ technically just refers to dried oats – be they steel-cut, rolled or quick – or a porridge made thereof. Long habit and family tradition, though, conjure up a whole dish for me: oats cooked soft, mixed with raisins and milk and generously sprinkled with brown sugar – you know you’ve got enough when pools of brown syrup form on the surface of the bowl. Martha’s influence has caused me to introduce the occasional nut (married life, sigh). But for the most part I’m eating the same oatmeal my mom made me when I was three.

And that’s fine – actually kind of touching if I may say – except those pools of melted brown sugar make for a very sweet breakfast, and I’m not really one for the sweets. This makes oatmeal only an occasional day-starter in our household, which is a shame, because a bowl full of whole grains isn’t a bad breakfast.

Liberation from tradition came from an unexpected place: the current month’s issue of Real Simple. Among their recipes was a two-page spread: ’10 ideas for: oatmeal.’ My eye immediately jumped to a bowl of oatmeal topped with scallions, paprika and cheddar cheese. (Cheese on oatmeal? It’s the American way.) Savory oatmeal! Why hadn’t I thought of this before?

I made the cheese-scallion oatmeal a few days after this revelation. I followed the Cook’s Illustrated technique for steel-cut oats, slightly modified: for two people, boil 2 cups of water, turn off the heat and stir in 1/2 cup of steel-cut oats. Soak overnight. In the morning, add a little more water, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and cook for 6 minutes. Then cover and let rest 5 minutes before serving. I topped each bowl with a handful of mild white cheddar, a sprinkle of paprika and thinly-sliced scallions.

Real Simple also suggests topping oatmeal with salsa, slice avocado and a fried egg – I’ll take any excuse to add more avocado to my diet. But this is just the tip of the iceberg: ginger-scallion sauce, barbecued pork belly, sausage gravy, the possibilities abound.


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5 comments on “Savory oatmeal, where have you been all my life?”

  1. Mike 25 March, 2013 at 9:18 pm

    This seems like a great concept, can’t wait to try different variations! On to the spice rack!

  2. kevin 27 March, 2013 at 8:33 pm

    I think I still prefer white sugar and blueberries!!

  3. Mom 31 March, 2013 at 3:11 pm

    So, Tom, of all the variations you have no doubt tried in the past week, which is your favorite? And is it REALLY good, or are you just cheerleading on this idea? There’s something about brown sugar, warm, melted, adding immensely to the bland oatmeal–however, I am going to give this a try this week. Hmmm…have to think about what’s in the fridge.