Today: Porridge, just right.
"This is a breakfast game-changer," Food52er Frank Ball wrote to me. He was talking about oatmeal.
More specifically, he was talking about the English Porridge in April Bloomfield's trophy-winning A Girl and Her Pig. It's easily overlooked, what with all the crispy pig ears and banoffee pie. But like everything Bloomfield touches, it's handled with subtle brilliance, and feels somehow new and age-old.
Now the Food52 editorial squad agrees -- it's genius. Here's why:
The 50/50 Oat Blend
On its own, a bowl of steel-cut oats is a chewy, hearty coal miner's breakfast. A porridge made from rolled oats runs smooth and doesn't bite back -- my great-grandmother, who, by the time I knew her, had no teeth, was legendary for hers.
I refuse to knock either of these, lest the toothless great-grandmothers and coal miners of the world come after me. But can we all agree that they can get a bit tiresome midway through the bowl?
Too much chew, too little chew -- this one's just right: Bloomfield calls for equal parts of both styles of oats, which means the steel-cut bits keep their pop, while the rolled oats melt around them. And getting them to the perfect texture only takes 20 minutes.
The 50/50 Liquid Blend
Cooking with half milk, half water is enough to make it feel rich and loving, without slogging you down first thing in the morning.
This will seem like a lot of salt. But it won't be too much, because at the end you'll add something sweet and something milky and it will all live in harmony.
It might also make you think of risotto, and next time you'll want to try some parmesan cheese and a runny egg on top instead. This makes a good breakfast too.
Perhaps most importantly, like the most genius of recipes, it's a simple enough formula that you'll memorize it quickly, and start cooking all your porridge this way. You'll see.
Porridge, especially the dressing of it, is extremely personal. Bloomfield is quite specific -- a five-fingered pinch of brown sugar in the middle, with a dribble of milk around the perimeter. I'm with her, but I'll add that the brown sugar should be generous and molten and not get stirred in, and that you should keep a pitcher of cold milk nearby to re-up.
But if your upbringing recommends a well of melted butter or honey or maple instead, you do that.
So, how will you make yours?
April Bloomfield's English Porridge
Adapted slightly from A Girl and Her Pig (Ecco, 2012)
Serves 2 to 3
1 1/2 cups whole milk, plus a few splashes
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons Maldon or other flaky sea salt
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup steel-cut oats
2 tablespoons sugar or maple syrup
Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].
Photos by James Ransom