Oatmeal. No big deal, right? No big thing? Just slap some oats and water in a pan, let 'em come to a boil, maybe salt them, then you're done? Well, yes. And no. Let's start with the yes.
Oatmeal at its plainest is just fine. We eat a lot of oatmeal prepared like that in this house. Max stirs mashed banana and maple syrup into his, Hugo gets puréed fruit on top of his, I like to top mine with a little pat of butter and maple syrup. We'll cook up a big pot for the three of us (always using three times as much water as oats, plus a healthy pinch of salt), then each bowl is customized to the eater's liking. I never gave the preparation much thought, though I did notice that depending on the brand of rolled oats used, our oatmeal turned out slightly creamier or more watery. Those were never happy mornings. I mean, watery oats. No bueno. On to the no, then.
After I schlepped home my tin of McCann's, I was noodling around online doing something else entirely (if you must know, checking out who won Food52's Piglet Award) when I came across this post by Rifka about April Bloomfield's porridge. You know April Bloomfield, yes? The chef behind everything delicious at The Spotted Pig and The Breslin and The John Dory Oyster Bar, which I have not yet had the pleasure of visiting?
Well, Rifka had just made the porridge from April's first cookbook (the winner of the Piglet!) and was bandying words like "luxurious" and "perfect" and "brilliant" about. Plus, she said, April's porridge was so good you could serve it to company, at which point I practically levitated off my chair with glee. Oatmeal for company? Sign me up, right now. The next morning, I made April's porridge for breakfast and I'm afraid I'll never look at regular oatmeal the same way again.
There are several things about this porridge that set it apart. First, it uses both rolled oats and steel-cut oats. The rolled oats sort of melt into the mixture, lending a certain gelatinous heft. The steel-cut oats retain a faint bite after cooking, giving the porridge wonderful texture. Second, it uses both milk and water, which results in a porridge that is silky and creamy and almost pudding-like. Third of all, it uses an enormous amount of salt. So enormous that I couldn't bring myself to do it. (I do salt the food that Hugo eats within reason, since I'm eating it too, but this felt like too much for him.) So take it from Rifka that all that salt in the porridge really is delicious and take it from me that even without the hefty dose, this porridge is delicious. I mean, it's beyond. It is super-duper special. Each bite was a delight.
I mean, can you believe I've just written five paragraphs about porridge? It's that good.
Next time (tomorrow?), I'm going to play with the ratio of milk to water, trying a little less milk and a little more water. I'll keep you posted...
April Bloomfield's Porridge
From A Girl and Her Pig
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons Maldon or other flaky sea salt; if using fine salt, use less – start at 3/4 teaspoon and adjust as needed
1/2 cup steel-cut oats
1/2 cup rolled (not quick-cooking) oats
Toppings (additional milk, brown sugar, maple syrup, flax seed or fresh fruit)
1. Bring milk, water and salt to a simmer in a medium pot over high heat, keeping an eye on it so that it doesn't boil over. When the mixture starts to simmer, add both oats, stir to combine and reduce the heat to medium. Cook the oats at a steady simmer, adjusting the heat as necessary and stirring occasionally. At 20 minutes, the steel-cut oats will be just cooked and the rolled oats will have melted into the porridge.
2. Taste for salt, add more if needed, then divide into two bowls and add the toppings to taste. Eat immediately.