"Oats are a sturdy sort and they aim to please," writes Peter Miller, author of Lunch at the Shop and, fittingly, of one of our favorite make-ahead lunches (and dinners) of all times.
There is some oral history that oatmeal can calm a stomach, begin a day, and serve well the subtleties of digestion. It may well be true.Peter Miller, Singing oatmeal's praises
But still, Peter laments, oats are "part abandoned, stuck out in the margins, with almost no agent at all." Poor, fussy-seeming oats—always second fiddle to breakfast cereal. They could use some dignifying—and some demystifying.
Look no further: With Peter's 4-step plan, you will give oatmeal the respect—and butter—it deserves, and oatmeal will give you a satisfying, dare-we-say-easy, 30-minute breakfast (for 10 of those, you can be in the shower):
1. Chill out on the measurements.
2. Take the time to soak your oats.
3. Treat it like risotto. Yes, risotto.
"Treat it with a small nod to risotto and grain," advises Peter, so that you can monitor and control the consistency: Heat a small kettle or pot of water and leave it to simmer, "as you would stock for risotto," alongside the soaking oats, simmering over medium-heat.
As the oatmeal bubbles and thickens, add hot water from the kettle or pot, 1/4 cup at a time, directly into the pan. Let the oatmeal gel—if it's too thick, drizzle in a bit more of the boiling water. Your oatmeal should be ready in no more than 5 minutes. "You will see that it has unified, and thickened—choose the consistency you want, adding a little more water until you get there."
4. You've come this far: Finish with a bang (and a pat of butter).
"When you have the oatmeal where you want it, turn the heat off and cover well. Add a good pat of cold butter and let it sit, covered, for 2 minutes."
Ladle the oatmeal into hot bowls—"silly to come this way and then use cold bowls," writes Peter. It's simple to heat them up: Simply pour over a bit of the hot water from the kettle you heated alongside the oats.
Add brown sugar first, so it has time to melt, then fold in a tablespoon of whipped cream (which, magically, lightens and enriches) and garnish with good, fresh granola and dried fruit.
Cinnamon bread, or monkey bread, toasted, buttered, and then broken into pieces can—and should—also be added at the last moment. Sweet croutons.
And Peter's last bit of advice? "Work quickly, so the oatmeal is hot when you serve it."
Share your best oatmeal tip in the comments below.
This post originally ran in February 2017, and we're bringing it back because we just can't get enough oatmeal during these cold winter months.