Oatmeal Brulee

National Oatmeal Day is in October. Seriously, is there any foodstuff that doesn’t have its own “National fill-in-the-blank-Day?”

In Phoenix, where the average daily temperature in October is 86 degrees, I rarely think about a warm bowl of oatmeal.

Now that we’re in our final stretch of cool days, I’m trying to eat as many warm bowls of oats as I can.

This recipe comes from my cookbook Par Fork! The Golf Resort Cookbook, and is adapted from The Sagamore in upstate New York. While there’s not a lot of golfing going on during these winter days, the resort is serving up plenty of steaming bowls of oatmeal with a twist: a brûléed top.

The crisp burnt sugar topping adds a pleasant bitter sweetness while the nuts and raisins add texture to otherwise dull, flat oats. In fact, feel free to double the amount of raisins and nuts for even more texture. If you don’t like raisins, try dried blueberries, cherries or cranberries.

Sagamore Oatmeal Brûlée

from Par Fork! The Golf Resort Cookbook

If you really want to get decadent, make a crème anglaise (vanilla custard) and spread a couple tablespoons on top of the oatmeal in the ramekins before you sprinkle with sugar and brûlée. I’ve included a recipe for creme anglaise below this recipe. It makes about 2 cups, and you’ll only need about half of it for the oatmeal. I’m certain you’ll find another use for this classic dessert sauce, like pairing it with a dense, rich chocolate cake, perhaps.

Serves 6

5 3/4 cups water
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups old-fashioned oats
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup toasted chopped walnuts
1/4 cup applesauce
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
12 tablespoons brown sugar
Fresh fruit and mint for garnish

1. Heat the broiler to high (see note). Bring the water and salt to a strong boil. Stir in the oats. Reduce heat and cook 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Remove from heat and cover. Let rest 5 minutes, or until all the water has been absorbed and the oatmeal is thick and creamy.

3. Fold in the raisins, walnuts, applesauce, maple syrup and cinnamon.

4. Divide the mixture evenly among 6 (8-ounce) ovenproof custard cups. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of brown sugar evenly on top of each cup.

5. Place cups on a baking sheet and place under broiler (about 3 inches from heat) to caramelize the sugar, about 2 to 3 minutes depending upon the heat of your broiler. Watch carefully!

6. Remove from broiler and cool a couple minutes.

7. Using oven mitts, place hot cups onto serving plates. Garnish with fruit and mint.

NOTE: If you have a blow torch, you can brûlée the tops of the cups instead of using the broiler. I’ve tried those small torches sold at kitchen stores and they take forever to caramelize sugar. I bought a regular welder’s torch at ACE Hardware and I’m very comfortable using it to brûlée or to chase unwanted guests out of the kitchen.

Crème Anglaise

Makes 2 cups

1/2 vanilla bean, split, or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup whole milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup sugar, divided into 1/2 cup portions
5 large egg yolks

1. Scrape the vanilla bean seeds into a saucepan with milk, cream and 1/2 cup sugar. (If using vanilla extract, stir in at the end.) Stir and bring just to a boil over medium heat. Turn off heat when it comes to a boil.

2. Whisk the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar with the egg yolks. Whisk in a little of the hot milk mixture into the yolks to warm them, and then whisk the warmed yolks into the rest of the hot milk mixture.

3. Return the pan to medium-low heat and cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens, about 8 to 10 minutes. Do not allow the sauce to boil. If you run your finger across the back of a spoon dipped in the sauce, the path your finger creates should stay clean. If the sauce runs through the path, it’s not thick enough and needs to cook a little longer. The term for this consistency is called nappe.

4. Strain the sauce into a bowl and then set that bowl in a larger bowl of ice water to chill completely. Store any unused portion, covered, in the fridge for up to 4 days.

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