As someone who’s starred in “Oliver” twice–as Oliver in 5th grade and Fagan in 7th grade–I know a thing or two about porridge (aka: “gruel”). Rule one: don’t ask for “more” or you’ll be dragged by your ear out into the snow and sold to a mortician. Rule two: it’s best not served from a giant vat in the middle of a workhouse; it tastes much better–in fact it tastes quite terrific–if you follow the following instructions from April Bloomfield’s glorious new cookbook, A Girl and Her Pig.
I’m obsessed with this book. In fact, the second it was available for order, I forked up the cash and had it shipped straight to my door. April Bloomfield is one of the best chefs going–remember my birthday meal at The John Dory?–and in these pages, she lovingly walks you through her recipes, with language that’s both casual (“have a taste…it’s good and salty, isn’t it?”) and evocative (she describes this porridge, with the help of co-author JJ Goode, as “just the thing for cold mornings when there was frost on the ground, and you knew that pretty soon you’d have to leave the house all wrapped up in your scarf, bobble hat, and mitts and pop off to school.”)
My only problem with this book is that I’m going to have to limit how much I blog from it before I get a cease-and-desist letter from April’s people. Next week, I’m going to share her recipe for the single greatest curry I’ve ever tasted.
But this porridge may be my new go-to oatmeal recipe. I say this as someone who has many go-to oatmeal recipes (like this one and this one and this one). What makes this one so great is threefold: (1) there’s a combination of rolled oats and steel-cut oats, so the rolled oats get super soft and the steel-cut oats pop in your mouth; (2) it’s made with a combination of whole milk and water, so it’s extra creamy and rich; and (3) she has you aggressively salt the oats while they cook so that when they’re done, you balance it out with brown sugar and create this incredibly lively salty sweet oatmeal combination that dazzles your tastebuds.
Let me walk you through it:
Combine 1 1/2 cups milk and 1 1/2 cups water, 1 1/2 teaspoons Maldon or another flaky sea salt in a pot and set it over high heat.
When it comes to a gentle simmer, add 1/2 cup steel-cut oats and 1/2 cup rolled oats (not “quick-cooking” or “instant”) and lower the heat to medium.
Cook at a steady simmer, stirring frequently (or it’ll bubble up!) for about 20 minutes. You want just some light bubbling, so really keep that heat low. After 20 minutes, it’ll look something like this:
The rolled oats should be somewhat mushy and the steel-cut oats should be just tender and pop when you bite them.
Now’s the fun part–you adjust this very salty oatmeal with sugar (maple, brown, or white) or maple syrup. Says Bloomfield: “I like my porridge to taste a little salty at first, then fade into sweet.”
Spoon the porridge into warm bowls, let sit for a minute, and then pour cold milk around the edges. Sprinkle a little more brown sugar in the center (or drizzle with maple syrup) and serve right away.
There you have it—a porridge that would have each and every one of these boys shouting for “more.”