Feel your (steel-cut) oats.

flag-mini-Scotland flag-mini-Ireland An Englishman and a Scotsman were discussing oats. The Englishman, with his nose in the air, said, "In England we feed oats to our horses, and in Scotland you feed oats to your men." To which the Scotsman replied "That's why in England you have such fine horses ... and in Scotland we have such fine men!"

Steel cut oats 12
The weather is cooling off wonderfully here in the midwest. After yet another hot, humid summer, it’s bliss sleeping through the night under a warm flannel sheet with the window open, and waking up with an appetite for hot cereal, especially a bowl of my new favorite--steel cut oats.
Steel cut oats 10
Remember those gooey, comforting globs of (by the time you got to the table cold) rolled oats you had for breakfast before school? Such memories! These are different and, in some ways, better and more grownup. Steel cut oats have a nice chewy texture with some of the familiar and comforting gooeyness, but much less glueyness, of regular oatmeal. They also take longer to cook--steel cut oats are whole oat groats chopped (well, cut) into little nubs rather than steamed (essentially pre-cooked) and flattened like rolled oats, so it takes a while for boiling water to plump them up: about 30 minutes, and well worth the wait.
Steel cut oats 2
The long cook time for steel-cut oats means they’re not exactly a convenient work day breakfast. They require some patience and stirring (clockwise, according to tradition), better for a slow Sunday morning while sipping your coffee or tea. To enjoy them during the week, I make a batch before bedtime by boiling water and oats together for 10 minutes, then turning off the heat, covering the pan with a lid, and letting it sit overnight. By morning the oats have absorbed the remaining water and all that’s needed is a few minutes of re-heating. Leftovers are plopped into a plastic container and stored in the fridge--they heat up nicely on the stove or in the microwave.
Steel cut oats 3
Oats like cool, wet weather so they thrive in the U.K. as well as countries like Russia, Canada, Finland, Poland and the American midwest. And although Scotland grows more barley than oats, oatmeal seems to strongly characterize Scotland’s culinary culture, alongside heather honey, whisky, and salmon. Scottish and Irish cookbooks are full of recipes calling for oats--pheasant, herring and fish cakes rolled in oats, leek soup thickened with oats, an oatmeal-onion stuffing called skirlie, fruit crumbles, boiled puddings, bannocks, cranachan, oatcakes, the hearty oats-whisky-honey liqueur known as atholl brose (blog post coming soon!), haggis, stout, and of course traditional oatmeal porridge.
Steel cut oats 4
For an authentic Scottish oatmeal experience, use a wooden spurtle--an approximately foot-long stick with a rounded tip used to stir the oats while they cook (that rounded tip helps you keep cooked oats from hiding in the corners of the pan). Then only salt on your cooked oats, no brown sugar or milk, and each spoonful is dipped into a separate bowl of cream before eating.
Steel cut oats 7
I hope the Scots forgive me for not following those serving rules--what is oatmeal without my splash of evaporated milk and drizzle of honey or some brown sugar? Sometimes a sprinkling of toasted walnuts, and when the price is right a handful of blueberries or blackberries. That would be three "superfoods" in one bowl! Oats, blueberries and walnuts are superfoods--that is, they are not only awesome because they taste so good, but they are extra awesome because they have been proven to do super things for your health. Oats, for example, help lower cholesterol and have minimal impact on your blood sugar, while blueberries and walnuts have antioxidant and anti-imflammatory benefits to help prevent cancer and other diseases. You could just about almost live forever eating superfoods. (NOTE: This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. But it's true--forever. Almost.)
Steel cut oats 11
We've been eating oatmeal throughout the summer (except when it was, like, 97 hot humid degrees out) and it is all the more satisfying now that fall is here. And this winter, when the weather turns truly frosty, I may even add a warming slug of whisky to each bowl. Although it's possible I might not wait until then.

P.S. You've seen those nice looking cans of McCann's Irish Oats on grocery store shelves, yes? The ones that go for oh, about $4.50 per pound? Well here's a secret: you can get bulk steel cut oats at Whole Foods for $1.39 a pound. Bargain! That won't take your whole paycheck. You'll live longer and have more money in the bank. Oatmeal is super, indeed.

Steel Cut Oats, Two Ways

Way 1 (30-minute method):
Serves 4, recipe can be halved

4 cups water
1 cup steel cut oats
dash of salt

Bring water to boil in medium to large saucepan. Add oats and bring to a boil again. Let mixture bubble and cook for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally (with a spurtle, if you've got one!). Reduce heat and let simmer, stirring occasionally, for another 20 minutes. Serve hot with milk, cream, yogurt, honey, sugar, bananas, berries, etc.

Way 2 (overnight method):
Serves 4, recipe can be halved

4 cups water
1 cup steel cut oats
dash of salt

Bring water to boil in medium to large saucepan. Add oats and bring to a boil again. Let mixture bubble and cook for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally--clockwise of course. Remove from heat, cover with lid, and allow to stand overnight on stove or in refrigerator. In the morning the oats should have fully absorbed the remaining water. Warm oats over medium heat (or in the microwave, if you must). Serve with the usual toppings.