Yup, you heard me...oatmeal is not just for breakfast any longer. Quick and delicious meals can be made savory with oatmeal, too. But I'm jumping ahead as I often do.
Let's first talk about the difference between rolled oats and steel cut oats. Rolled oats are whole oat groats that have been husked, pre-steamed, and then rolled flat. This makes them much quicker to cook, but also yields a more mushy finished product. Steel cut oats, on the other hand, are simply whole oat groats that have been cut into two or three pieces by large steel blades, hence the title “steel cut.” Both rolled and steel cut oats are said to offer the same health benefits, which are many, but the downside to steel cut oats is that they take a lot longer to cook, sometimes as long as 30-40 minutes. The plus side, though, is that the finished product offers a more distinctive consistency, less mushy, more crunchy and nutty. The consistency, in my opinion, is akin to a short grain rice...creamy but at the same time the grains stay distinguishable, not mushed together. For this reason, I recommend steel cut oats in any savory recipe.
This said, there is a very simple way in which to cook (or pre-cook) steel cut oats. The ratio t cooking steel cut oats is 1-to-3, meaning for every cut of oats you will need 3 cups of water. Simply combine the water and oatmeal in a suitably sized pot. Bring it to a boil and allow it to cook for about 30 seconds. The shut of the heat, cover the pot, and allow it to rest for at least two hours. It is that simple. I'll often do this before I retire for the evening and when I wake in the morning there is a pot of cooked oats on the stove. Or I may start the oats and allow them to rest while I am out running errands. The best part is that you can make more than you need at the moment and refrigerate them in portions, simply reheating as necessary.
Regarding savory applications, once the oats are cooked simply treat them as you would any other cooked grain; add whatever ingredients you prefer. In the instance to what is in this photo (what I had for dinner last evening), I caramelized some diced onion, then cremini mushrooms and brussels sprouts along with garlic and hot pepper. Then I added slivers of sun-dried tomatoes and a splash of wine. And after mixing in and reheating the oatmeal I topped it with feta and asiago cheeses.
The sky really is the limit with this. While I've yet to add meat or fish to an oatmeal recipe (as I don't eat much meat at home) it likely would be delicious. My next recipe I plan on using vegetable broth in place of the water for a more full-flavored experiment. And I'm sure leftover oatmeal recipes will make excellent patties...mixed with an egg or tow and a bit of lour then pan-fried. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it...