A Girls Night Dinner Party
Dorte Lambert's Blueberry Browned-Butter Tart

Alton Brown's Steel Cut Oatmeal

Months ago, I bought a can of pinhead oatmeal. Pinhead oats are the Scottish name for steel-cut oats, which come from Ireland. I was going through a hot cereal phase during what seemed like an everlasting winter and had gotten sick of hot oat bran cereal (although with Wyman's frozen wild blueberries and a splash of maple syrup, it can be the world's fastest and most nutritious breakfast ever). My night-time reading during that time was Mollie Katzen's Sunlight Cafe, and I found myself dreaming about the nutritious and complex breakfasts I'd whip up after rising each day. But in the cold, hard light of a winter morning, it was much easier to just pour myself a bowl of cold cereal with soymilk. Until I decided to work ahead. Cooking steel-cut oats is a lengthy process, but can be quickened by soaking the oats overnight. Even with this "short-cut" though, the can of oats languished in the back of my cupboard throughout the warm summer months.

Then, just a few weeks ago, while watching Good Eats on the Food Network, I saw Alton Brown prepare a bowl of steel-cut oats that looked so good I could have forfeited my dinner plans right then and there, and just had oatmeal for dinner. Instead, I waited for an appropriate morning, armed with buttermilk, cinnamon and a heavy saucepan. Though this takes a bit more time than opening a packet of instant oatmeal and nuking it with water, the results are so much more satisfying and good for you.

First, I toasted a cup of oats with a pat of butter in a saucepan. When the oats smelled nutty and almost like popcorn, I added several cups of boiling water and turned the heat down low.

Without stirring, I let it cook for 25 minutes, while I took a shower. When the time was up, I added a mixture of buttermilk and soymilk (Alton calls for whole milk) and cooked the oats for another 10 minutes.

After that, I topped the mixture off with a spoonful of brown sugar, a sprinkle of cinnamon and another splash of buttermilk. My bowl of oatmeal was tangy and creamy from the buttermilk, and the oats were both tender and toothy. It was an absolutely wonderful way to start the day.

This makes four servings, so my breakfast is now taken care of for the rest of the week. Talk about fast food!