Saturday, March 14, 2009

My Favorite Breakfast Food

Let's start at the beginning.

Breakfast is supposed to be the most important meal, the fare that sets the standard for the rest of your day. After all, what you eat then is the source of energy and nutrients for the next waking 16-18 hours. 

My favorite breakfast is a formula. As a boy, I loved cereal. I liked the cold variety, as well as oatmeal (or Malto-meal), and I've eaten enough bacon and eggs in my time. I can't remember when I first discovered this concoction; perhaps it was a desire to sample the "genuine" European flavor of authentic gruel. My forebears--several generations back--hailed from the West Country of England--Yorkshire or perhaps Wales--and I've always thought of this meal as resembling something they might have enjoyed.

The ingredients are important, because their specific flavors and textures can't be substituted. 

First, John McCann's Steel Cut Irish Oatmeal. Still sold in a rigid metal can, with the old-fashioned label you see above. You can buy it in cardboard boxes, but you need to preserve its freshness, and the sealed metal lid is made to do just that. Start with about a full quart of fresh water--got to use unadulterated stuff--and add perhaps a half teaspoon of non-iodized salt. In a deep pot, bring the salted water to a rapid boil (big bubbles) over a high flame, then gradually pour in about 3/4 of a cup of oats, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Keep stirring. The mixture will boil up into a froth, and to keep it from boiling over, you have either to lower the flame or periodically remove the pan from the fire to let it subside. Keep it frothing up for about 2 minutes, then reduce the flame to low. (If you're in a hurry, you can cook it faster, but there's a danger it will stick to the bottom of the pan, especially if not continuously stirred). It can simmer this way for the better part of 30 minutes. As the water cooks down, and the meal thickens, you can add more water if you need to extend the cooking time. 

When it's thick and sticky, add between 1 and 2 tablespoons of Lyle's Golden Syrup. It has to be Lyle's, because of its flavor. If you grew up as I did eating Cracker-Jacks, you know exactly what the sugar-coating on the popcorn tasted like; it's inimitable! Stir this into the cooking mixture thoroughly. When it is blended, pour in about 2-3 table spoons of your favorite single malt scotch. I usually "waste" my least favorite distillate for this, since it's the generalized flavor of scotch which is required, not specific. Pour the resulting oatmeal into thick pottery bowls. Before it's had a chance to develop a dry skin on top, pour pure thick whipping cream right into the center of the mass; it will "undermine" the stuff and come up on the sides. Pour some more on the top so that there's a ring of white around the edges of the bowl. Sprinkle some ground cinnamon over the top, and it's ready. To eat it, start at the drying, cooling edge, since the middle will still be too hot. 

This goes so well with coffee, that it's a shame to take it with anything else. We're presently on a Garuda jag, but any heavy, rich dark brew will do--freshly ground, and thick. More cream into the coffee, if you like.

Thick, chewy Canadian bacon makes a wonderful accompaniment.  

I've probably had this combination at least a hundred times, and it never gets old. 

If you have high cholesterol, you might cut back on the cream, but evaporated milk will work, too.     


Steven Fama said...

Man, I'm with you to the cream (can't stomach it, sadly), and it sounds great even without it but please advise: three tablespoons would be a pretty good shot of whiskey first thing in the morning . . . does the alcohol burn / evaporate off?

Curtis Faville said...

Actually, there's no sense of alcohol at all. It's the taste which counts, not the inebriation.

Anyway, the key ingredient is the Lyle's Golden Syrup, which isn't just a "sweet" flavor, but a kind of burnt brown sugar/molasses suggestion.

eddie watkins said...

Sounds delicious Curtis. I'd never think of adding the scotch, and I couldn't imagine using a real good one. Which one do you use - Bowmore, Speyburn? I usually just add a big chunk of good butter, pure maple syrup, and cinnamon; but I must track down Lyle's Golden Syrup...

Also, the Ryder painting you put up a few posts back is Siegrfied and the Rhine Maidens, not The Flying Dutchman. Both are in D.C.

Curtis Faville said...

I use an old bottle of Tomintoul, with a wide cylindrical plastic cap. You're right, I could probably even use a cheap blended scotch, for the purpose.

I used also to like cooking up batches of cornmeal, into which I'd put prune preserves, butter, and a little whole milk--another treat.

Interesting about the Ryder--it was mislabeled on the site where I found it. I assumed they'd know, but you can't take anything for granted online--there are no watchdogs!

Unknown said...

I seem to recall that scotch & porridge (served unblended) are the sole ingredients of a supper offered by Thomas Carlyle in Fowle's French Lieutenant's Woman. Although the guests find it rather grueling fare, apparently the historical TC's affection for his native cuisine was consummated nightly. What risks such may have for the practice of literature I cannot say. "[B]ut what in these dull unimaginative days are the terrors of conscience to the diseases of the liver[?]"

Steven Fama said...

Curtis, thanks for the additional info here.

I've been eating the steel cut oats for a while now -- honestly, since you mentioned them I think over in the Silliman comment box -- and now must hunt down the Lyle's. I don't think Safeway stocks it....

Steven Fama said...

I tried this recipe this past weekend. So too did my wife. We followed the recipe closely.

I hereby conclude the recipe may work well for someone of Curtis' build (very tall, very large weight wise (not overweight, mind you, but a BIG MAN)), but that for any regular size person the Golden Syrup and the Scotch should be cut back to maybe one-third what is recommended in the recipe.

The oatmeal was tasty, but too sweet and the sugar rush was fierce. Also, the alcohol rush was substantial.

Curtis's body-type I guess means that consuming what amounts to a shot to a shot and one-half of hard liquor (it's put in the oatmeal at the very end) doesn't "hit" him much. I definitely felt it, at six feet, 170 pounds.

Next time, I'm trying a half spoon each of the syrup and the scotch.

Curtis Faville said...


Perhaps I should have qualified my post by saying that the measurements should be edited for content.

I did mention that heavy whipping cream is probably not healthy for those with cholesterol issues.

The syrup is tricky--I often try to cut back, but as I do the cereal begins to seem bland (or "oaty")--you have to flavor it to taste.

The Scotch is optional. Some people can taste it with just a few drops. Others might put in two whole shots. Suit yourself.

I'm 6'4" and presently somewhere north of 260 lbs.

This Fall I plan to knock off about 50 pounds--we'll see how that resolution turns out!

Steven Fama said...

Yes, that syrup is damn tasty; I do appreciate your mentioning it so we could discover it -- one-half tablespoon may be too little...