Thursday, October 23, 2008

Improv recipe: Baked oatmeal

Today was the tailgating party for my office. We celebrate the yearly regional college football rivalry with a potluck. Actually, we celebrate pretty much everything with a potluck, but that's beside the point.

I'd gotten some steel-cut oats, so I decided to make some baked oatmeal. Steel cut oats are different then rolled oats. They are small little squares/cylinders instead of flakes, and they take longer to cook. But the texture is delightfully chewy, and the flavor is heartier. You can find them in most grocery stores, sometimes called Irish oats or pinhead oats.

Alton Brown's got a decent crock-pot oats recipe, but I wanted something i could transport easily on the bus, so I looked for recipes just for baking.

I found a couple good ones, but I didn't have all the ingredients, like raisins, on hand. So I took the basic requirements, 1 cup of oats to 4 cups of liquid, cook for 30 minutes at 325, and played around with it.

In the end, I came out with an extremely sweet, tasty and filling oats recipe, guaranteed to feed a crowd.

Spiced Baked Oatmeal
For the spice, I used a loose herbal chai tea mix that has actual pieces of chocolate beans, cinnamon sticks, or cardamom in it. If you can't find that, use mulling spices. The main thing is you want big pieces of stuff--nothing powdered, and you want flavors that will go well with sweet.
1 1/2 cups steel cut oats
2 1/2 cups milk
2 1/2cups water
1 can sweetened condensed milk
3 Tablespoons mulling spices or chunky chai tea mix
1/2 cup dried fruit, such as raisins or cherries (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Mix liquids together in large saucepan. Add spice mix. Heat just under boiling. Turn off heat, let steep for 5 minutes. Strain into bowl. Using saucepan, heat up 2 tablespoons butter. Add oats to butter, stir for a couple minutes until they start to smell toasty. Don't let them burn. Add milk mixture back to the pan, add dried fruit. Stir until combined.

Spray 9 inch square baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Place pan on cookie sheet to catch spills or drips. Pour milk and oats into baking dish. Cook for 30 minutes. If it's not done, cook for 10minutes more until it starts to set up. Stir to make sure everything is evenly distributed. Put a few dried fruit pieces on the top to make it look pretty. Serve warm.

This is extremely sweet and rich and doesn't need any brown sugar or cream on the side.

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