Monday, February 28, 2011

Mushroom and Spinach Ris-oat-o: Painfully obvious

While I consider myself moderately skilled in the kitchen (particularly when it comes to quinoa and things that elevate my insulin levels), I’ve never been all that adept at making eggs. My omelets are always a complete disaster, I still regularly lose one out of every three eggs that I attempt to poach, and even my scrambled eggs turn out looking like sad yellowish grey pebbles.

I’ve had similar issues with the seemingly simplest form of egg preparation – the humble fried egg. The process of keeping the yolk runny while making sure the white is completely cooked through has always seemed a bit impossible to me. My usual method involves frying the egg at a low temperature and then covering the pan with a lid so that the steam will sear the top of the white. Even then, I perpetually end up with an imperfect egg that’s overly brown on the bottom, yet still contains a shiver of jiggly white around the edges of the quickly hardening yolk.

It’s completely and utterly frustrating to me – so much so, that I often just resort to scrambling the yolk in with the white and then frying the whole thing into a sad, well-done puck that I wouldn’t dare serve to any other human being. (Sometimes I have trouble serving it to myself.)

A few weeks ago, I proudly told my friend Sarah about the bibimbap quinoa I’d recently made – complete with one of my woefully fried eggs (I, of course, didn’t mention the woeful part). Always the thinker, she responded that bibimbap would be a fun idea for a buffet-style dinner party – people could pick their grain (quinoa, rice, etc), and then their toppings

“Smashing idea!” I enthused, before sheepishly admitting that if we were to ever do such a thing, I could not be in charge of frying the eggs.

With downward cast eyes, I then regaled her with all my frying issues using vivid, jiggly detail. When I’d finally finished ranting, she gently asked if I’d ever tried flipping the egg over.

I stared at her, horrified. “But doesn’t that break the yolk?!”

“Not if the base of the white is already set. It just cooks the top of the white.” She assured me.

I was stunned – I couldn’t believe I’d never considered it before. Particularly when I tried it the next day and it actually worked. It seemed so simple – and embarrassingly obvious.

When my brilliant friend recently featured a ris-oat-o made with oatmeal and mushrooms on her equally brilliant food site, I was similarly struck by how I had missed such a seemingly obvious connection.

I love oatmeal.

I love risotto.

Why had it never occurred to me to combine the two?

While I’ve made risotto with quinoa and barley before, making it with steel cut oats creates a far more similar texture to actual risotto. When the starch releases from the oats, it pulls the grains together – much like Arborio rice does when it releases its starches. As an added bonus, the wholesome, nutty grains makes for a far healthier version – especially since there’s no need to add any Parmesan.

What struck me the most, however, was how well the oats paired with the savory mushrooms and ribbons of spinach that I added in for something green. For years I’ve been eating my oatmeal with sweet fruit, nuts or nut butter. I never imagined that it could taste so good using food items from the other end of the flavor spectrum.

I did, however, imagine that the ris-oat-o would be even better topped with a fried egg. Particularly one that has been delicately fried on both sides so that the yolk is perfectly runny and the white is perfectly set.

It’s pure genius, I tell you. Pure delicious genius.

Mushroom and Spinach Ris-oat-o
Adapted from TasteSpotting
Serves 1

Adaptations: I used more fresh thyme (that I removed from the sprigs), omitted the bay leaf, added spinach, and sautéed the mushrooms in a little Marsala wine. I also slightly reduced the amount of oats in proportion to the mushrooms, and finished the dish with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. The oatmeal also took longer for me to cook than the recipe instructed so I adjusted the cooking time below.

Olive oil
1/3 cup finely diced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed
1/3 cup steel cut oats
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup shiitakes, baby bella mushrooms
2 tablespoons dry Marsala wine
1 cup spinach
Salt, pepper to taste
Balsamic vinegar to finish
Optional fried egg

Heat splash of olive oil in small saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add minced garlic and cook until garlic is cooked, about 3 minutes.

Add the half the fresh thyme leaves, oats, and chicken broth to the saucepan. Bring to boil, then turn down heat to low. Simmer, stirring often, until oats are cooked through, about 30-35 minutes. Do not leave the kitchen (according to Sarah, burned oats are not a good thing). If the oats start to get too thick, stir in more chicken stock, about ¼ cup at a time.

While the oats are simmering, heat a splash of olive oil in medium sauté pan. Add fresh mushrooms and sauté with the rest of the thyme and the Marsala wine until mushrooms are browned, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste, set aside.

Reheat the pan and briefly sauté the spinach until just wilted. Remove with a slotted spoon and then place on a paper towel to absorb and excess liquid.

When oats are cooked, stir in browned mushrooms and spinach. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Serve hot, garnish with fresh thyme and optional balsamic vinegar. Can also top with a perfectly fried egg.


sarah j. gim said...

two things.

1. let's do the bibimbap party this weekend. for reals...

2. wine? oatmeal? i love you, big D. :)

the actor's diet said...

that's brilliant!!!

Daily Gluttony said...

I am all about the refined carb substitutes these days & this is sheer genius. Must make!

The Duo Dishes said...

That's a great idea. Never would've thought of that, so clearly you are always 1 step ahead.

Esi said...

Yes, I would eat this (sans shrooms). Did you really say "smashing idea"? lol

Anna A. said...

it's high time you made a savory oatmeal masterpiece! I am loving this and also, I suck at making eggs as well. Can't wait to try this out, TALF.

Diana said...

S - Can we put wine in the bibimbap too?

Lynn - I can't take credit for this one - it's all Sarah!

Pam - It's crazy... I don't even buy white rice or regular pasta any more! Such a change from just a few years ago when I didn't even know what quinoa or spelt or farro were!

Chrystal & Amir - I wish I could say this was my idea, but the inspiration came from TasteSpotting and the brilliant Sarah J. Gim.

Esi - Haha, no. Poetic license. ;)

Anna - Really? Your poached eggs for that dinner you did a few months back looked *perfect.* I was so jealous!

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