By Ryan McKay
This is so easy, maybe even too easy. Simple ingredients: one pot, a few minutes of active cook time (really, 4-5 minutes, maybe), and you go to bed. Wake up the next morning at your leisure and warm up the pot, done. If you can boil water and place a lid on a pot, this is in your wheelhouse. And what is produced is so good that 12-year-old boys will eat it (the ultimate firefighter taste test focus group). People, I give you overnight steel cut oatmeal like you’ve never had it; this is good.
When oatmeal comes to mind, thoughts of rolled, soggy oats that taste as good as they sound filter into one’s mind. Overfilled with expired cinnamon, dried-out brown sugar, and fake butter, they are the norm for the fire service (sad but true). I wanted to provide a tasty, healthy alternative and prove that oats can have a place in the firehouse breakfast pantheon (pancakes, scrambled eggs, grits, toast, sausage, and bacon).
Know I have a soft spot for oatmeal for all the Quaker microwavable packets I ate as a youth on the go. But there is just something magical about steel cut oats (AKA: Irish/Scottish/Pinhead Oats). They retain some much-needed texture that makes one think of Irish/Scottish-style porridge or Italian risotto. Nutty and chewy, they provide a great vehicle to top with a plethora of fresh or dried ingredients. Indulge.
Water (3 cups)
Steel Cut Oatmeal (1 cup)
Buttermilk (½ cup = 1-2 Tbsp.)
Milk (½ cup)
Unsalted Butter (1 Tbsp.)
Sugar (1 Tbsp.)
Salt (½-1 tsp.)
Dutch Oven or similar
Spoon, spatula, or similar
Place the Dutch oven over medium heat and add the butter. Melt then lightly brown the butter. Place the oatmeal in and toast until a nutty aroma hits the nostrils. Remove with a spoon and reserve. Add the water, milk, buttermilk, and salt and bring to a boil. Add the oatmeal, stir once, and lower to a low boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat, cover with lid, and go to sleep.
In the morning, return the Dutch oven to low-medium heat until warmed through. Add the sugar and enough liquid (water/milk) to reach your desired consistency. Provide a buffet-style offering of toppings from fresh/dried fruit, nuts, granola, sugar in any form (maple syrup, agave, turbinado, etc.), peanut/almond butter (it’s kinda cool), etc.
A few after-the-fire critiques: I removed ¼ of the oatmeal and added quinoa (as seen in the photo) and it was fantastic. This can easily be made the same morning and there is many a recipe for that on the Internet (expect 30-40 minutes) with the same ingredients. FYI, doubling the recipe made enough for 10 people (probably 7-8 firefighters) with some sides (eggs, toast, fresh fruit). This was too easy and may not challenge enough those wanting to make a mess in the morning in hopes of making the crew do a lot of dishes.
Ryan McKay is a 12-year fire service veteran and a firehouse cook from Atlanta, Georgia. His goal is to bring the fast-paced lifestyle of the fire service with the slow-paced art of cultivating family and crew through the tool that is food. He has made an appearance on NBC’s primetime show “Food Fighters,” is a co-founder of the Metro Atlanta EMS Conference, and works intimately with the SafePath Child Advocacy Center.