A Little Bit Jumbled and Jivey

I have been on an oat kick recently.

After a few years of ignoring the grain, I recently rediscovered the joys of hot oatmeal in the morning–it is still early spring here, no matter what the calendar says–and oats have become a staple freezer item.  (I treat oats like nuts and store them in the freezer, to prevent any oils from going rancid).  I’ve purchased many different varieties of oats for my experiments: mostly ordinary old-fashioned rolled oats, but lately also steel-cut oats, those little nubbins that most would be unable to identify as oats at all.  They make a wonderfully rustic and grainy oatmeal, but since it takes half the amount of steel-cut oats to make the same finished quantity of oatmeal as that made from rolled oats, I always miscalculate, overbuy, and end up with uncooked steel-cut oats that languish in the freezer while I finish my overabundance of leftover breakfast.

As part of my search for perfect oatmeal, I checked out Lorna Sass’s new cookbook Whole Grains: Every Day, Every Way.  I certainly enjoyed her recipes for hot breakfast oatmeal, but what really intrigued me was a recipe for a Tex-Mex turkey soup with steel-cut oats stirred in at the end, instead of rice or pasta.  It seemed a perfect use for the leftover steel-cut oats in my freezer and a perfect Sunday night dinner–warming enough to cut the chilly wind, but not so stodgy as to repulse, given the vaguely spring-like tendancies of the weather. 

The stew is simplicty itself, the only deviation from the norm being the presence of the oats.  Sweat an onion and a stalk of celery in oil, add stock (or water) and that beloved southern staple, a can of diced tomatoes and green chiles.  Plunk in some turkey thighs (boneless and skinless in my case, though the recipe calls for bone-in) and various spices, simmer for a short while, then add a measure of steel-cut oats and simmer again until the oats are soft.  Finally, add in some corn kernels, diced avocados, lime juice and chopped cilantro.  The result?  A deeply flavorful bowl of tomato-y stew, enriched by the turkey and stock, spiced by the green chile, and thickened by the addition of the oats.  The oats serve the same purpose as barley in a beef-barley soup, but add a toasted flavor that deepens and enlivens the dish. 

I would definitely make this stew again, and am excited to try other oat recipes from Sass’s book.  If I can get my hands on some whole oat groats, her oat pilaf might be in the offing.  But wait–whole oat groats?  I wonder what kind of hot cereal that would make. . . ?

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Published in: on May 7, 2007 at 8:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

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