My first encounter with steel-cut oats was at the Our Lady of the Pines Retreat Center in Fremont, Ohio. Used to rolled oats, which turn into a gummy paste when made into oatmeal, my mouth was surprise by their firm, yet tender bite. Never one to be shy when it comes to tracking down something that tastes good, I found my way to the kitchen, and asked what was different about the oatmeal. “It’s McCann’s Irish Oatmeal,” the cook said.
When I got back home, I tracked down a cannister of McCann’s–I have to admit I was charmed by the container–and began learning how to make steel-cut oats.
For a long time, I was less-than-successful. I used both sets of directions provided with the oats, the quick, overnight-soak method, and the standard method. Only rarely was I organized enough to remember the night before that I wanted oatmeal in the morning, and both methods often resulted in oatmeal stuck to the pan.
Within the last year, though, I’ve found Deborah Madison’s recipe, and it works for me, every time. Three cups water, one cup oats, 3/8 teaspoon salt. I bring the water to a boil, and add the salt, then then oats. Then I turn the heat down to a simmer, cover the pot, set a timer for 20-25 minutes, and take the dog out. When we get back inside, I usually have a few minutes to empty the dishwasher, or put on a pot of coffee, before the timer beeps. Then it’s time to take the pot off the heat, and let it sit, covered, for 10 minutes.
I think the magic of this preparation method is in the last step. Letting it sit, off the heat, for some reason makes it so that nothing sticks to the sides of the pot.
And the timer just beeped, so it’s time to have breakfast!