My husband recently accused me of eating steel-cut oats every morning, which I started doing about six months ago, because they are "trendy." My knee-jerk protest died in a splutter as I recalled that I adopted this breakfast (after a lifetime of hot-cereal-avoidance) not when my mother urged me to try "real" oatmeal, but when I spied it on the lunch menu at a popular restaurant on New York's Lower East Side and gave it a shot, because I felt poor and it was cheaper than everything else.
Maybe I had been seduced by a clever menu writer, but this trend, unlike skinny jeans, turned out to suit me exceedingly well. The oatmeal was toasty, filling, un-slimy, and easy to replicate at home. Now I make a pot every three days, reheating the cold stuff with a big splash of soy milk. Usually I top it with ground cinnamon, ground flaxseed, and a modest spoonful of brown sugar, but a honeyed fig topping makes it worthy of guests.
A little cup would make a cute amuse bouche, if that's how brunch goes at your house. Just think—if, when you serve it to someone who's been avoiding oatmeal, she eats it to be polite, you might be doing her a big favor by introducing her to a new favorite food. (And if a bowl of hot mush is more than some texture-sensitive guests can handle, the figs are good on yogurt, too.)
Oatmeal with Honeyed Fig Topping
Adapted from The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook
- Yield:3 to 4
- 1 cup milk
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 cup steel-cut oats
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 5 ounces (1 cup) dried figs, quartered and stemmed
- 1 1/2 teaspoons honey
- 1/8 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
- Brown sugar (optional)
Bring 3 cups water and the milk to a simmer in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat, then add the oats and toast, stirring constantly, until golden and fragrant with a butterscotch-like aroma, about 2 minutes.
Stir the toasted oats into the simmering liquid, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer gently until the mixture thickens, about 20 minutes. Stir in the salt and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the oats absorb almost all the liquid and the oatmeal is creamy, about 10 minutes longer. Let the oatmeal stand for 5 minutes before serving.
While the oatmeal stands, make the topping. Bring the figs, honey, vanilla, cinnamon, and 1 1/2 tablespoons water to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook until the liquid reduces to a glaze, about 4 minutes. Sprinkle each bowl of hot oatmeal with a little spoonful of brown sugar, if you like, and top with honeyed figs before serving.