I love lazy holiday weekends, emphasis on the lazy. This creamy slow-cooker porridge of steel-cut oats, dried fruits, and spices cooks overnight and is ready when we wake up. Perfect for when I have family visiting and want an easy breakfast that makes everyone happy. Make another pot of coffee and bring on the lazy morning!
Cooking steel-cut oats and dried fruit in a slow-cooker does something amazing to both. The oats become much creamier than they do on the stove-top while the fruit dissolves into little jammy pockets. This is definitely a porridge in the truest sense of the food.
I make this in a 6-quart slow-cooker, though you could go down to as small as a 3-quart. A thin film will form over the top of the oatmeal during the night and the oats around the edge of the cooker may get a little crusty. Never fear! Just scrape the sides and stir everything back into the porridge.
If you happen to be the type who gets up in the night, you can also give the porridge a stir or two as you pass by. This isn't necessary, but will help the porridge to cook more evenly.
You should also feel completely free to play with the fruits and spices in this recipe. I think two cups is a good portion of fruit, but you could certainly add more or less if that feels right to you. Chopped apples, dried (or frozen!) cherries, fresh figs or any other kind of fruit would be happily at home in this recipe.
Don't be tempted to use regular oatmeal in place of the steel-cut oats, however. Regular oats would dissolve into something wholly unappetizing if cooked this long. If you've never come across steel-cut oats before, you can find them at Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, and given their growing popularity, probably your local chain supermarket.
I love that people can help themselves to this porridge as they wake up, giving the early-risers something to eat while letting the late-sleepers snooze away. Leftovers keep very well, which is why I sometimes make a whole batch just for myself and eat it all week. The porridge tends to become gummy as it cools, but becomes creamy again with a little milk and a trip to the microwave.
Makes about eight 1-cup servings; recipe can be doubled
2 cups steel-cut oats
8 cups water
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped apricots
1/2 cup chopped dates
1/2 cup chopped figs or raisins
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
zest of 1 orange
Toppings: chopped roasted nuts, jam, fresh fruit, more dried fruit, milk, yogurt, leftover eggnog
Combine everything except the orange zest and toppings in the bowl of a 3-quart or larger slow-cooker. Set the cooker on its lowest cook setting ("LOW" or 8-10 hours), and leave overnight.
If you happen to get up in the night, give the porridge a stir as you pass by. If not, no worries.
In the morning, break up the thin film that forms over the top of the porridge and stir it in. Scrape the sides and bottom. Stir in the orange zest.
Serve with toppings. Leftover porridge will keep refrigerated for at least a week. Reheat with a little milk or water to make creamy again.
(Images: Emma Christensen)