A few months ago, I was—surprise, surprise—talking about breakfast with a friend over a drink. I mentioned that I’d never come around to oatmeal, even though it was a (constantly rejected) staple in my house growing up. I found it gloppy and tasteless. It made weird squelchy noises. It even looked gross—an off-white slop. But I had always wanted to like it; there was something nice about the idea of a bowl of something belly-warming first thing in the morning, especially on cold winter days. The fact that it could be a vehicle for things like butter and cinnamon and honey helped.
My friend leaned in, “I used to hate oatmeal, too!” Used to. He had all the same complaints as me, and he had more or less given up on it. But then—as is so often the case—there was a girl. A girl who happened to love oatmeal in the morning, and ate it more or less every day. So he decided to figure out a way to make it so they could enjoy it together and both actually like it. And that’s exactly what he did.
One recent morning—one of the first ones to feel like fall—I tried to make oatmeal the traditional way again. It was just as awful as I remembered, though the copious amounts of butter and brown sugar I mixed in helped a little. I texted my friend an S.O.S.: “Remind me what your oatmeal tactic is? I just made it and am eating it for the first time in, oh, two decades and I still hate the texture.”
He very patiently gave me detailed instructions, but it turns out that the technique is an easy one. The major difference? You toast the oats.
So the next time that craving for a cozy, hearty breakfast struck, I took to the stove once again. And reader—my friend’s technique did the trick. Toasting the oats gave them an almost-nutty, complex flavor. And cooking them with water on the stove, uncovered, prevents that mushy texture. Instead the oatmeal becomes a bit more like granola soaked in milk for the perfect amount of time: moist enough to hold together, dry enough that it maintains some structural integrity.
This lifelong oatmeal hater is now a can’t-shut-up-about-it convert. And I even got a little fancy, which I'd recommend you do, too. If you've detested oatmeal for as long as I have, the occasion calls for it.
Halve your plum, remove the pit, and cut each half into three pieces. Cut each piece into thin slices.
Put 1/2 of the tablespoon of butter, the 1 teaspoon of brown sugar, and all the plum pieces in a small frying pan on the stove. Turn heat to medium and stir to make sure plum pieces are well-coated. Let it cook down, so the plum gets even softer and the butter and brown sugar looks syrup-y. This will only take a few minutes. Kill the heat, and leave the sweet plum pieces in the hot pan.
Add rolled oats to another pan and turn heat to medium-high. You're essentially going to be toasting the oats, so keep the pan moving to avoid burning. Once the oats have started to brown (and you can smell them) but before they burn, add the water. This will bubble and steam like crazy. Let it! Give it a few stirs as it cooks down. Once the water is almost entirely absorbed, kill the heat. Let sit for a minute or so. Add the other half of the tablespoon of butter and stir till it's all combined.
Transfer the oatmeal to a bowl and top with the plum pieces. Add remaining brown sugar, a couple dashes of cinnamon (to taste), and a couple pinches of Maldon salt.
Grab a spoon and eat!
This is a good serving for one person, but doubling the whole recipe should work just as well.
You could use lots of other fruit in this recipe as well. I could see apples and pears being great, but I bet you could also do this with sweet potatoes to delicious effect.
To that point, many other sweet spices would work well! Ginger, nutmeg, and even cardamom could be lovely.
Feel free to play with the proportions of butter and brown sugar—a little more or a little less of either won't hurt.
The salt is a game changer and keeps this from being too cloying. If you don't have Maldon, a pinch of salt mixed in with the oatmeal should do the trick.