Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Without the letdown

When I was in college and living in Santa Fe, I worked at a tea house that made legendary oatmeal. People would come in and order it with the same excitement normally reserved for steak and ice cream, We want two large bowls of the amazing oatmeal, please! After graduation, friends from college would talk about their plans for visiting Santa Fe, which often, if you can believe it, involved the oatmeal. The funny thing was no one actually knew what was in it. It was purple, for one, and though the gobs of maple syrup cream obviously contributed quite a bit to making it a much more luxurious oatmeal than normal, it clearly contained something other than just oats. And I worked there, so I of all people should have known. One day I asked the cook, a Mexican guy. What's in the oatmeal? -You know, sugar, butter. -What's the purple stuff? He shrugged. Oats?  Ok, or not.

Fast forward 4 years from graduation (which I cannot get my head around-- 4 years! What on earth have I been doing for the past 4 years?) and I picked up a bag of black sticky rice on a whim at a Chinese supermarket in Minneapolis. And then, on another whim (and after putzing around a bit on the internet), I decided to cook it up for breakfast, hot cereal style, along with some quick oats, milk, cream and brown sugar. 

Being a night owl through and through, I don't expect many breakthroughs before noon. But as I tasted the rice, turned purple from the milk, it all became crystal clear. This is the oatmeal!  I exclaimed to Felipe. ¿Qué? asked Felipe, astonished to hear something lively out of me before breakfast was even finished. A place I used to work at in Santa Fe...I jumped on the computer to see if they had a website to show him. 

And there on the website, there in our no-secrets internet age, on its about page, was the Famous Oatmeal recipe, in all its naked glory. You have got to be kidding me. It's on their website?? I felt like John Cusack in High Fidelity. Charlie's in the f@#$ing phone book?? 

As it turns out, the Famous Oatmeal contains not only black sticky rice but also steel cut oats and wheat berries (and a large amount of heavy cream, maple syrup and sugar). Quite an impressive combination, and surely one day I will have a go at the Official recipe. I like my version quite a lot, though, and it involves quite a few less pots. I do feel like calling it oatmeal is a bit of a misnomer. It does contain oats, but they aren't the principal ingredient and they aren't what makes the oatmeal unique. The name porridge may evoke some Oliver Twist-like associations for some people, but I've always liked it. It sounds warm and comforting and reminds me of my mom making me Cream of Wheat (which we called bear mush) in the mornings. Call it what you want; I call it a perfect breakfast that will keep you full for hours (black sticky rice is a whole grain). It's Charlie without the memory-killing letdown. Just the good stuff. And this is really good stuff.

Purple Porridge

1 c. black sticky rice
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. oats (I only have the quick-cooking kind here and they work well, though I would probably use rolled if I were in the states, which would entail a longer cooking time)
2 Tbsp. natural cane sugar (or brown sugar)
1/4 c. heavy cream*
1/4 c. milk* (I use whole)

Wash the rice-- I put the rice in a medium-sized pot, fill it halfway with water and swirl the rice around. Pour off any debris that floats to the top. Swirl the rice a couple of more times (add more water if necessary), pouring off debris, then drain the rice and place it back in the pot along with 3 cups of water. Add in the salt, cover the pot tightly, then cook over low heat for 45-55 min., until the rice is tender. Leave the pot, covered, overnight. (You can continue straight on to the next step if you like-- the rice doesn't need to sit overnight-- I just think that making the rice in the morning would mean an awfully long time to wait for breakfast.)
Add the oats and 1 cup of water to the rice, and bring the pot to a low simmer. The oats should turn creamy among the rice. (If you are using rolled oats, they will probably take 10-15 min. to cook. Quick-cooking oats are, by their definition, pretty quick-cooking, they only take a minute or so.) Stirring frequently, add in the sugar, cream and milk. If the mixture looks dry, add more milk. You want a creamy but not watery texture-- like rice pudding or oatmeal (because this is, indeed, really a hybrid of the two). Serve hot. Serves 4.

*or substitute 1/2 c. half and half for the milk and cream


  1. Sounds delicious, especially on a ridiculously cold Minnesota morning. And purple too...
    But on to Bear Mush -- it really WAS called Bear Mush! It was the hippie version of Cream of Wheat from the Sunset Co-op.

  2. Lies! That´s almost disappointing in a way, I guess I just had assumed it was a made-up you and Daddy-ism along the lines of the magical thing or the idea that raw tofu cubes and cucumber were a normal snack for 4 year olds.

  3. I love the word "porridge" too. And your recipe looks amazing...I'll definitely be bookmarking your blog for future deliciousness. Thanks for stopping by mine!