I developed this recipe as a way to get more excited about oatmeal. It deserves a more regular spot in my morning routine, especially because it staves off my tendency to have a second breakfast of cookies or cake. I wanted a version that was more exciting than the typical dried fruit and nut versions that I’m used to making. Having just bought a canister of cocoa nibs, I decided to sprinkle some on top of my oatmeal, and was instantly hooked. I played around with spices to complement the cocoa nibs, and landed on a combination of star anise, cloves, and cinnamon. Instead of using ground spices, I steeped whole spices in milk, then used that milk to cook the oatmeal. The process takes only five extra minutes, and it’s so worth it; the combination of the creamy, spiced oatmeal with the crunchy cocoa nibs is downright addictive. —EmilyC
Test Kitchen Notes
This recipe was a revelation -- to think that it takes only 5 extra minutes on a busy weekday morning to infuse such flavor into my regular, plain old oatmeal! All you need to do is throw some whole spices into a cup of milk and simmer for 5 minutes, then add oats and cook as usual. Fish out the spices, then treat yourself to a topping of cocoa nibs. The result is a sophisticated, complex, not-too-sweet take on oatmeal. I made it twice in a row, the first time as written, and the second time, using equal amounts fat-free milk and water (my usual way). The results with fat-free milk were of course less creamy, but still delicious. I recommend wrapping the spices in cheesecloth before adding to facilitate their removal from the finished dish. —Tarragon
pods star anise
Sea salt, to taste
cocoa nibs, or to taste
Optional toppings: more milk, dark brown sugar, fresh fruit
Combine the milk, spices, and sea salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then lower the heat to a gentle simmer and let the spices steep for 5 minutes. Remove the spices. Add the oats and cook, stirring occasionally, until they're tender.
Remove oatmeal from the heat and stir in any additional toppings. Transfer to a bowl and sprinkle generously with cocoa nibs. Serve immediately.