While our kitchen will shrink in moving to this house, our number of bedrooms will increase, which means that our parents will no longer have any excuse to make hotel reservations when they come to visit us! We will have ample room for them and I’ll be able to do one of my favorite things ever--make breakfast. Without a doubt breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. I could eat it forever. Even cereal on weekday mornings has caused me to nearly miss my bus to work on multiple occasions for no other reason than that I couldn’t resist refilling my cereal bowl just one more time. One of the reasons I like breakfast so much is because of my monster of a sweet tooth. You see, all breakfast foods, except for egg dishes, are sweet and that, I believe, is why I love breakfast so much.
One recipe that I’ve gone back to multiple times (which, as you know, is quite rare for me) is an oatmeal brulée recipe. It holds a special place in my heart because it was instrumental in my learning to like oatmeal. For most of my life (11/12 to be exact), I did not like oatmeal. I never really had it growing up and on the rare occasions when I tried it I was always reminded of snotty boogers. Sorry if I’ve grossed you out, but now you see why I did NOT like oatmeal. In my mind, oatmeal was perfect for the kid in my second grade gym class who particularly enjoyed eating little parcels that came from his nose. Perhaps I thought of oatmeal this way because on the occasions that I did try oatmeal, it was always too runny with an excess of milk, not even warm (room temp at best) either because of the cold milk or because it was mass produced and had been sitting out awhile, and it was made with quick oats, which in my mind, turn into the perfect soft booger consistency. No, oatmeal was not good at all; it was a weird squishy substance that did not deserve any recognition or acknowledgment from me. Why did just about everyone else like it? I simply figured that oatmeal had bamboozled them when they were just wee little tykes and didn’t know any better and as they grew up it became some sort of strange comfort food to them. However, I do try to keep an open mind about almost anything in life so I was destined to try it again, and again, until I liked it.
I like this particular recipe because it is very hot when it is served and there is no danger of it cooling down too fast. This hot temperature and the whole oats (vs. quick oats) do a lot to save this oatmeal from becoming “snotty boogers.” Even if the texture did resemble such things I don’t even know if I would mind because the flavor is so good. The milk (or cream if you prefer) for the oatmeal is steeped with slivers of ginger, some orange peel, and a cinnamon stick. Buried beneath the oatmeal at the bottom of the dish is a layer of berries that burst from the heat in the oven and let their juices ooze out. Topping the oatmeal is a candy crust of caramelized sugar, just like a crème brulée. It’s a beautiful dish full of surprises! If you do not like oatmeal, I suggest you try this.
Oatmeal Brulée with Ginger Cream
Adapted from Yvonne Starlin in Taste of Home
1/2 cup milk or cream
2 thin slices fresh ginger root with a 1 inch diameter
1 cinnamon stick (3 in.)
1 Tbsp. grated orange peel
3 Tbsp. maple syrup (I prefer to use real maple syrup!)
1/8 tsp. grated nutmeg
4 cups water
2 cups old-fashioned whole oats
1/2 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. butter or nonstick spray
1 cup fresh or frozen unsweetened raspberries, blackberries, or blueberries, thawed (do whatever you have, I like raspberries the best)
1/4 cup sugar
In a small saucepan, bring the milk/cream, ginger, cinnamon, and orange peel to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and let simmer for ten minutes. Remove from the heat and strain and discard the solids. Stir in syrup and nutmeg; set aside.
In a large sauce pan over medium high heat bring the 4 cups water to a boil. Add the oats and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, for five minutes uncovered. Remove from the heat and stir in the brown sugar and the ginger cream. (The original recipe says to only stir in 1/4 cup ginger cream and to serve the rest with the finished brulees. I added it all once by mistake and liked it that way so that is why I've written the recipe that way here. You can do as you please.) Cover and let stand for two minutes.
Grease four 10-oz. ramekins with butter or nonstick spray. Add the berries to the bottom. Spoon oatmeal over the top, level it flat, and then sprinkle the sugar (1 Tbsp sugar per ramekin) on top. Place ramekins on a baking sheet and broil 4-6 inches from the heat for 7-9 minutes or until sugar is caramelized. Watch this step carefully so your sugar doesn't burn! Serve and enjoy!