About when I chew my last bite of dinner, as I set down my fork and ease myself back from the table, that's when I start thinking about breakfast. And I think about breakfast pretty much for the next twelve hours, even during sleep, a time when others' minds settle, go blank, or fill with unclean thoughts. I can't prove that I think about breakfast while I sleep, but you can't prove that I don't.
I love breakfast.
What I don't love, generally, are casseroles. Not cheesy potato "bakes," or chicken divan, or anything rectangular at all, unless it starts with an L, ends with an A, and has an ASAGN in the middle.
OK, I guess I do love brownies. And noodle kugel. But that's it for quadrilateral foods.
Given all this background, I greeted the arrival of Faith Durand's inaugural cookbook, Not Your Mother's Casseroles, with a healthy skepticism. Durand is the managing editor of Apartment Therapy's The Kitchn, a website with considerable panache, so I forced myself to keep an open mind, and happily so: my experience with this cookbook has already been a great success.
As a breakfast aficionado, I am also an oatmeal devotee. I like it hearty, and filling, and grainy, and substantial. I want it to stick not only to my ribs, but to all my internal organs. I want it to comfort my mouth, warm my toes, and make me feel like I'm sitting in front of a fireplace in a Swiss chalet, or an American chalet built in a Swiss style.
Durand's Baked Steel Cut Oats with Dried Fruit, Coconut, and Spices morphs classic oatmeal into a soft, tender oatmeal brownie, and I use the word brownie extremely loosely, because it's oatmeal, not a brownie. But you can scoop out hot squares of it, and then drizzle it with icy milk, and then get the whole hot-cold mojo going in every bite. Or you can just smush it up and eat it like regular oatmeal, but that would be kind of stupid, because then what would be the point of baking it into a giant square?
With leftovers, you just pop the lid on your casserole dish and shove it in the fridge. The next day, warm up another square with fresh milk in the microwave.
This book, that oatmeal, and the Spiced Oven Carnitas Colin made the next day make me kind of love casseroles now. But I still love breakfast more. And chalets. (And brownies.)
Baked Steel-Cut Oats with dried fruit, coconut, and spices
Excerpted, with permission of the author and publisher, from Not Your Mother's Casseroles by Faith Durand (The Harvard Common Press, 2011)
Durand suggests prepping the oatmeal in advance to speed oven-time, but I didn't, and it cooked up just perfectly.
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup steel-cut oats
2 cups water
1-1/2 cups milk
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup mixed dried fruit
1/2 cup unsweetened dried coconut
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
Lightly grease a 9" square baking dish with butter or nonstick cooking spray. Melt the 1 tablespoon butter in a saucepan over medium heat and add the oats. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes, or until the oats start smelling toasty. Add the water and milk and bring to a light simmer. Remove from the heat.
Stir in the brown sugar, dried fruit, coconut, cinnamon, ginger, and salt. Pour into the baking dish and cover with aluminum foil. (Here she says you can refrigerate overnight.--csr.)
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the baking dish on a baking sheet (to catch any overflow) and put it in the oven. Bake for 35 minutes, or 25 minutes if you've refrigerated the oatmeal overnight, until the oats have absorbed all the liquid and are creamy. (The oats will look quite soupy at first but they will thicken into a more familiar oatmeal consistency after they have cooled for a few minutes.) Stir the oatmeal before serving, and serve hot.