OAT LOADS OF
THERE’S MORE TO OATMEAL THAN PORRIDGE,
AND NOW’S THE TIME TO EXPERIMENT. BY JODY SHEE
all it breakfast porridge. Call it a cholesterol
buster. Call it old-fashioned, steel-cut or quick.
Whatever you call oats and oatmeal, it’s at center
stage, especially on fast-food breakfast menus. But
that’s just the beginning of possibilities for the grain for which
we have the Irish to thank.
There is evidence that before recorded history, oatmeal
porridge was a staple in Europe and recognized as a
characteristically Irish food.
Over the years, it has quietly been eaten for breakfast in
homes across the U.S., until Starbucks brought it to the
national foodservice spotlight when it added oatmeal to its
menus in 2008. Along came McDonald’s with Fruit & Maple
Oatmeal in January 2011, and the breakfast scramble was on.
Now, oatmeal is everywhere, and in danger of stalling if it
doesn’t morph in another direction, says Suzy Badaracco,
president of trend-forecasting company Culinary Tides Inc.,
Portland, Ore. She adds that oats and other whole grains
are the rock stars of the health research world—easily and
naturally added to recipes without competing for flavor.
START THE DAY
Oats and oatmeal have a long life ahead, given that they
are also the foundation of granola and muesli. But as to
porridge, the economical breakfast menu item no eatery
should be without, everyone has a favorite version.
Badaracco suggests simmering the oats in almond milk
and adding agave nectar and/or superfruits. “Do more fun
things with it for the morning daypart,” she says.
Working in the business and industry sector for Aramark
as chef/manager of the dining facility at Citigroup on Wall
Street in New York, Matthew Babbage, CEC, notes that
office employees gobble up oatmeal. As the New Year is
well underway, it seems that healthy eating is on everyone’s
resolution list—judging by the amount of oatmeal he goes
through each day.
“No longer do they just add brown sugar and milk, they
add granola, Craisins or raisins, agave syrup, molasses.
It’s not your typical oatmeal,” Babbage says. His personal
favorite is the combination of oatmeal, almond butter and
blueberries. The almonds have a good, roasted flavor, and
there’s no need to add sugar. “Overall, oatmeal is a comfort
food [consumers] have that they don’t even realize.”
But for chefs to give oatmeal the “comfort food” spin in
developing new ideas and recipes is not the right move,
Badaracco says. “Comfort is for wartime or an economic crisis.
Comfort goes away when we’re feeling better and brightening up.
It’s time to go a little crazy. We’re experimental and playful now.”
She also advises keeping regional or global flavor profiles
authentic to the area and not “Americanizing” them.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: 1) Oatmeal shakes at Tiztal Café. 2) Black bean/porridge
patties, appropriate for an appetizer or main dish. 3) Fruit and almonds dress morning
porridge. 4) Savory oat fritters are Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods’ take on arancini.