There’s a lot of back and forth about the benefits of batch cooking—making a large amount of any given recipe, to have as leftovers throughout the week. Traditionally, I’ve never taken to it. I would make a gallon of lentil soup and piously eat it every day, first marveling at my efficiency, then bemoaning the redundancy. Eventually it occurred to me: Instead of making a big batch of lentil soup, why not cook a big batch of lentils and use them different ways? Prep the , instead of the finished dish, so that ingredient can be used speedily while mitigating boredom along the way.
Because stone-ground oats (aka Irish oats or steel-cut oatmeal) take longer to cook than rolled, they’re wonderful for batch cooking. I've started making more in one go than I can eat at a single breakfast, with plans for a fast reheat on subsequent days. While they’re often served with dried fruit or maple syrup, oats have a nutty flavor and creamy texture that pairs well with savory food. Plus, oats are incredibly good for us—high in protein, iron, soluble fiber, and the only cereal to contain avenanthramide antioxidants.
(Pro tip: Oatmeal boils over when the liquid gelatinizes the starch, trapping the boiling water bubbles no matter how much you stir. Use a larger pot than you think you need to give more surface area for the bubbles to build up without overflowing.)
Maybe there is a place for oats at dinner, I thought one morning as I plopped my leftover oatmeal into a pot to reheat for Day Two breakfast. The oatmeal came out of the container as a perfect square—exactly as polenta would when cooked, cooled, sliced, and pan-fried. Looking through a collection of gnocchi recipes, I read once that any sort of dumpling counts, including those griddled polenta cakes. And so, the oat gnocchi (gnoatcchi). Here’s the gist:
Take leftover oatmeal and cut into rectangles (or really any shape you like). Dredge these in some sort of flour (I like to blitz some oats in a food processor or blender to make flour, but you can also use wheat flour or cornmeal). Pan-fry in a generous amount of fat until golden brown on all sides and warm in the center.
The accompanying salad is dressed in brown butter vinaigrette, another one of my favorite big batch recipes. I find it easier to brown butter in larger amounts, so I usually double the volume and keep it in the fridge for flavor-boosted dinners. The vinaigrette mixes brown butter and olive oil for a silkier mouthfeel (an all-butter dressing can congeal as it cools on raw vegetables, which isn’t as pleasant).
This recipe features asparagus, which in the northern Midwest, is at its peak right now, in June. The fat stalks are the easiest to shave into wide raw ribbons. If you’d like, you can roast the stalks instead, or substitute whatever vegetable looks best at the market or is already in your kitchen. I’ve made this with carrots, cauliflower, parsnips, green beans, and zucchini, and have yet to be disappointed. —abraberens
- Prep time 6 hours
- Cook time 1 hour
- Serves 4 as a light main course
melty cheese, such as Gruyère, cheddar, or manchego, grated (optional)
oat flour, cornmeal, or wheat flour (see Author Notes for tips)
extra-virgin olive oil
white wine or cider vinegar
lemons, zest and juice (about 2 oz juice)
small shallot, minced (a tiny yellow onion works in a pinch)
asparagus, trimmed and washed
pecans (or another nut like almonds), toasted and roughly chopped
- In a larger pot than seems necessary, heat a glug of neutral oil over medium heat (just enough to coat the bottom of the pan). Add the oats and briefly toast, 30 to 60 seconds. Add the salt and water and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook, stirring regularly, until the oatmeal is tender and thickened, about 20 minutes. Add the grated cheese, if using, and stir to distribute evenly.
- Spread the oatmeal into a small sheet pan (such as a quarter sheet pan) or similar-size baking dish—the smaller the container, the thicker the oat gnocchi will be. Refrigerate until fully cool and thick (at least 4 hours or ideally overnight).
- To make the brown butter vinaigrette, combine the olive oil, vinegar, lemon zest, lemon juice, orange zest, and a big pinch of salt in a bowl. Add the minced shallot to another, heatproof bowl. In a small frying pan, heat the butter over medium heat and until brown, swirling regularly. (As the butter cooks, its milk proteins will fall to the bottom of the pan, where they’ll caramelize.) Remove from the heat and pour over the shallot and let sit 3 minutes to soften. Add the shallot-butter mixture to the lemon-olive oil mixture and whisk to combine.
- Using a sharp knife, vegetable peeler, or mandolin, shave the asparagus into thin ribbons. Combine the asparagus with the spinach and pecans and set aside.
- Remove the set oatmeal from the fridge and pop out of the baking dish. Cut the oatmeal into wide planks or squares. Dredge the pieces in the oat flour (or cornmeal or wheat flour).
- In a large frying pan, heat a large glug of neutral oil over medium-high heat. Add the oat gnocchi and pan-fry until golden brown; if the pan looks dry, add a bit more oil along the way. Flip and brown the other sides evenly, adjusting the heat of the pan as needed. Depending on the shape, you may have to brown them in batches. The all-ready browned fritters can be held warm in a low oven while the others brown.
- To serve, place the oat gnocchi on a serving platter or individual plates. Dress the asparagus salad in some warm vinaigrette with several turns of black pepper and salt to taste. (Note: For the leftover vinaigrette, store in the fridge, then simply rewarm and dress again on your next salad.) Heap the salad on top of the oat gnocchi and serve immediately.