Earlier this year I saw Alton Brown's show on oatmeal. All my previous attempts at making steel-cut oats had failed to impress, but his recipe produced a wonderful dish that has since been a staple. But that left me wondering why oats are such a niche grain: breakfast cereal, cookie filler and granola grain.
Alton's trick to cooking steel-cut oats is to delay the addition of salt, because it seals the starch in the grain. If allowed to escape, the starch forms a creamy sauce, just like Arborio rice in risotto. It seemed like that was just what I needed for my stew.
The experiment was a success. The oats didn't lose their texture, as rice sometimes does, and the starch thickened the sauce, but never felt like glue, as flour sometimes does. The dish also has the benefit of being wheat and gluten free (except for trace elements that might have been introduced while processing the oats), a plus for several people I know.
The following recipe fits easily into a large latte' mug.
- Half a small yellow onion, diced.
- Two small zucchini, diced.
- 1/2 C grilled lamb, diced.
- 1/4 C steel-cut oats.
- 1 1/2-2 C chicken broth.
- Olive oil.
Add the lamb, toss, then add enough stock to cover the ingredients. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for fifteen minutes. Taste the stew and season as needed. I put a lot of spices on my grilled lamb, so I added just a little salt at this point. Cover and simmer until the oats are tender, another 10-15 minutes.
I also have some leftover chuck roast. Perhaps I'll try the same again tomorrow with that instead of the lamb.