Reinventing a winter classic: hot & savory oatmeal

Oatmeal is one of those foods that I get a very strong craving for…once in a blue moon. Every now and then during the winter months I long for the chewy, creamy, and sweet taste of oats cooked with milk and maple syrup. However, I quickly get bored of that taste combination. So I have been looking for ways to mix it up so I can eat oatmeal more often.

Switching gears a bit, I have been exploring ways to cook multiple foods in one container as a way to conserve energy. My interest in this started when I read the cookbook that came with my Zojirushi rice cooker. It is full of one pot recipe ideas where vegetables, fish, and rice are steamed together -saving energy and cleanup. One neat aspect of this recipe is that the hard boiled eggs do not have to be eaten with the oatmeal. Because they are self contained in the shell, they do not impact the flavor of the oatmeal (as might occur with other one pot recipes).

2 eggs
1 cup steel-cut oats
1 spring onion
1 tablespoon seasoning of your choice (I used unpasteurized soy sauce and Guizhou chili paste)

Boil four cups of water in a small pot. Rinse off the two eggs and place two eggs into the boiling water, then add one cup of steel cut oats. Boil the oats and eggs for about 8 minutes. This is the length of time you need to have a soft-boiled egg. Conveniently, this is also approximately the length of time the steel cut oats need to boil before they start to thicken. Reduce to a simmer. Remove the eggs and rise them under cold water to remove any oatmeal bits and to arrest the cooking process. Let the oats cook for about 30 minutes.

Note on the seasonings: The soy sauce I use is Nama Shoyu by Ohsawa Organic. Imported by Gold Mine Natural Food Co. The only brick and mortar store I’ve found it in is Whole Foods. It is expensive but, one taste and you will realize that the bottom-shelf soy sauce you’ve been using tastes like licking a penny (not exaggerating). Think of it like expensive olive oil used for tasting as opposed to the cheap stuff used to oil a pan.

The chili paste is “Spicy chili crisp” by Lao Gan Ma. I have found it in Asian grocery stores in CT and NY. The woman pictured on every jar is the Chili Sauce Empress herself, Tao Huabi. Born an illiterate peasant from China’s poorest province of Guizhou, Tao built the company from nothing into an multi-billion yuan enterprise.

The paste delivers an extremely complex flavor that comes from combining chili flakes, onion, and preserved black soy beans. Crunchy-chewy, umami-spicy! The Mala Project has a good article on her products.