Some food, some drink.
Simple Sunday Dinner Sides: Savory Steel Cut Oats with Peas.
Rice, pasta, potato. Lather, rinse, repeat. Don'tcha ever feel like mixing up the side dish routine a little bit? When I'm looking for something a little different sitting on a plate next to my Sunday pot roast, I turn to oatmeal. Oats are often overlooked when it comes to savory recipes, and that's a shame, because oatmeal; specifically steel cut oats (a.k.a. pin oats) are an fantastic alternative to the usual sides. With only six ingredients (five if you don't count water) and a hands-off method, this is a side dish that's as simple as it is unique. If you're a fan of those boxed or bagged boil-it-up -quick side dishes (and you don't mind waiting a wee bit longer for home cookin'), I reckon this'll be right up your alley.
When I was in college, I lived off of bagged side dishes. You know, the ones that almost always begin by boiling a cup and a half of water, a half cup of milk, and 2 tablespoons of butter (or margarine - ack!). Dump in the bag, and then continue another eight to to ten minutes. I'd throw in a bag of frozen vegetables, and garnish with a little Sriracha. Oh man, that was living; one step above instant ramen and a cheap and effective way to prepare dinner and next day's lunch at the same time.
I barely ever buy the bagged pasta or rice dishes anymore. When you're pantry's stocked, it's just more fun to roll your own sides. That's not to say however that a side dish should be complicated. Oh, sure, rice is nice, and I've been known to DIY a pasta side as well, but as carbs always tend to anchor a meal, I like to mix it up a bit. I'm all about variety, I still believe in side simplicity. One dish that you'll never see coming in a "boil it up" style pouch is steel cut or "pin" oats. My favorite steel cut oat preparations almost always lean toward the savory side, as steel cut oats are hearty and satisfying (truthfully, I'm not much of a breakfast eater either; at least not for breakfast). This particular recipe cuts the mouth feel monotony of the steel cut with the subtle sweetness and texture of a bag of frozen peas; which is far and away a better use for said vegetable than any post-op recovery from a fella's elective surgery.
Recipe: Jump to the detailed recipe. (or, keep reading for the gist of it) -
Into a 3 quart saucepan, add the oats, water, bouillon, dehydrated minced onion, and celery seed (that's everything except the peas). Bring the pot just to a boil over medium high heat all the while stirring occasionally. Cut the heat to low, cover and cook for 25 minutes. At the end of the 25, kill the heat, give it all a stir (don't worry too much about anything stuck to the bottom of the pot) and add the frozen peas (I don't stir them in 'till I serve). Re-lid and let set another 10 minutes covered on the hot stove top (remember to turn the burners off!) before stirring and serving.
- With a bit of tweaking, this could be a great side for those on restrictive diets. Buy the right kind of steel cut oats and you're half way to gluten free. Ditch the bouillon for homemade vegetable stock and you've likely got something gluten free and vegan.
- On the topic of beef bouillon: I know we're talking about a salty, MSG-reinforced umami bomb here, but it keeps this recipe uber simple, and you're still in control of the seasoning which is more than you can say for what comes in a bag. Oats can take a lot of salt, even in sweeter applications, but if you're still a bit apprehensive about the sodium here, feel free to cut back on the bouillon until you're comfortable. It won't be as good, but we all know folks eat with their guilt as much as they do their eyes. Likewise, if you have the time and forethought, homemade beef stock and Kosher salt instead of beef bouillon would be just dandy (I was plum out of beef stock in the freezer, and hence we have a premise for a blog post).
The 10 minute rest at the end of the simmer is super important to your finished dish, and accomplishes a few things.
- First of all, you gotta cook those peas. You can stir them in if you want, but I personally don't dig overcooked vegetables. Usually ten minutes' covered is enough to take the chill off the legume, and after you stir them in, they'll be perfectly warmed thru.
- Second, starches released by the oats need a bit of time to adjust and thicken as carry-over cooking finishes your grains You folks that cook a lot of brown rice or barley already understand the importance of the carry-over). If you insisted on serving without "the rest" (even if the peas were warm), you'd be treated to a slightly under-done grain and a bit of a hot, soupy mess. Yum, huh?
- Third, there's always a chance that stuff will stick to the bottom of the pot. Heat pushes the water up out of the starch, and that'll make things stick. By allowing that rest, water has a chance to migrate back down to the grains in the bottom of the pot, and you won't be spending any extra time at the sink after dinner working on a repetitive stress injury.
Never had a savory steel cut oat dish? Well, about the best way to describe it is that this is about as close as you could ever hope to get to brown rice risotto. Past the full flavors of the seasoning and the sweetness of the peas, there's a wholesome and almost nutty chew, that just happens to be sauced perfectly thanks to the starches released during the simmer. If you're a fan of risotto, but loathe all the hands-on stirring bullcrap I think you'd appreciate what's going on here; after all, a side should be easier than a main course, right? This is a recipe that's full of possibilities: Swap out a the bouillon for homemade stock, and change up the variety of bagged frozen vegetable to just about anything that floats your boat. While not implicitly vegetarian as wrote, I do think that this recipe by itself could do for a meatless main course on a busy weeknight where you may not have time to watch the stove. Hmmm... Gee, now that I think about it, that still sounds a lot like how I used to do my cooking in college. It's good to know that nearly eight years of school wasn't totally squandered.