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Monday, October 11, 2010

The Best Oatmeal

Oatmeal gets a bum rap. I've heard it compared to wallpaper paste and other equally gluey substances. This is clearly because the people saying mean things about oatmeal have never had the pleasure of eating a really good bowl of oatmeal on a cold winter morning. Now, I am not talking about that "instant -- just add water" stuff with the little freeze dried apple bits. I'm talking about the real thing -- oatmeal cooked in milk -- to a delicious, creamy conclusion.

The first key to really good oatmeal is, big surprise, the oats. I like McCann's Quick Cooking Oats. They cook much faster than steel cut oats and still have a really nice texture. These are quick cooking -- not instant, which kind of plump up and then wilt when you add the hot liquid.

Second, and I think more importantly, cook the oats in MILK NOT WATER. Nothing ever tasted better by cooking it in water. Use low fat milk if you must -- I know using whole milk would get the calorie police after me. When I first cooked oatmeal for my kids when they were little, I would use just milk. Ina Garten came up with the idea of cooking the oats in a mixture of milk and water, and it works perfectly.

And finally, oatmeal is like a little black dress. It's a great backdrop for accessories. Toppings like dried fruit, bananas, apples and cinnamon all work well and really take the cereal from ho-hum to delicious.

So, here's my recipe for The Best Oatmeal, with the help of Ina.

The Best Oatmeal

1 1/2 cups milk (lowfat if you must -- whole milk is better)
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups quick cooking oats (I like McCann's)
1/2 tsp. kosher salt

Heat the water and milk to a simmer. Add the oats and the salt. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened. Off the heat, add one (or more) of the following toppings. Cover and let it sit for a couple of minutes until everything plumps and softens.


1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 banana, sliced
1 apple, peeled and diced
A little cinnamon
Maple syrup
Brown sugar

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