Beyond breakfast: steel-cut oats

Steel-cut oats: good for breakfast and a whole lot more (photo by Alison Ashton)

Like, well, just about everyone else, as soon as the calender flips to a new year, I renew my pledge to eat better. As in more of the healthy stuff–whole grains, fish, fruits, and vegetables. A recent project got me reacquainted with steel-cut oats.

Also known as oat groats, Scotch oats, and Irish oatmeal, steel-cut oats are oats that have been hulled, toasted, cleaned, and cut, which renders them palatable to humans. (Cattle are fine munching on whole oats.) They have a wonderful chewy, nutty quality that makes them a beloved hot breakfast cereal. They’re rich in vitamin E, B vitamins, and cholesterol-busting fiber.

Shopping tip: Look for steel-cut oats in the bulk bins at the health-food store, where they’ll be far cheaper than the stuff sold in tins.

Steel-cut oats also have a starchy quality that lends them to risotto. Of course, we typically think of risotto as involving a starchy, medium-grain rice like Arborio or Carnaroli, but it’s a method that you can use to cook other grains and even pasta.

Steel-Cut Oat Risotto with Mushrooms and Peas

Possessed of leftover steel-cut oats, a yen for risotto, and a New Year’s desire to eat more whole grains, I made this dish the other night. If you use fresh mushrooms, skip the soaking step and increase the broth to 3 cups.

1/2 ounce dried mushrooms

2 cups hot water

1 cup low-sodium chicken broth

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

1 cup steel-cut oats

1/4 cup vermouth or dry white wine

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

1/4 cup grated pecorino Romano cheese, divided

Salt to taste

Black pepper to taste

  1. Combine mushrooms and water in a medium bowl. Let stand 30 minutes. Drain mushrooms through a fine-mesh sieve over a small saucepan. Add broth to soaking liquid in saucepan; bring a simmer over low heat (do not boil).
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms to pan; saute 2 minutes or until tender. Set aside
  3. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion to pan; cook 2 minutes or until onion is translucent. Add oats; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add vermouth; cook until absorbed, stirring constantly. Add 1/2 cup broth mixture to oats, stirring constantly until liquid is absorbed. Repeat, adding remaining broth mixture 1/2 cup at a time and stirring after each addition until liquid is absorbed, until oats are tender (you may not need to use all the liquid). Stir in mushrooms, peas, and 3 tablespoons cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with remaining 1 tablespoon cheese. Yield: 4 servings.

One thought on “Beyond breakfast: steel-cut oats

  1. Risotto with steel-cut oats! You discovered my secret, an innovation so bizarre I thought it would forever safe from the Foodiestocracy. Works because of the darker flavors and the greater absorbancy; try it with duck or salmon.

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