This recipe applies the technique of making risotto to steel-cut oats, yielding a creamy, al dente dish that benefits not only from the grain's unique, earthy taste, but also from its whole-grain nutrition. Like all whole grains, oats are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber, but oats contain a particular type of fiber called beta glucan that research suggests may be especially good for heart health.
That soluble fiber is also a factor making oats a good candidate for "risotto," because it lends a thick, creamy texture when dissolved in the cooking broth. In experimenting with the savory dish, I have found the deep flavor of the grain pairs best with ingredients you might describe as earthy, hearty or nutty. Winter vegetables such as beets, carrots and squash work well, as do hearty herbs and aged cheeses.
Here, sauteed mushrooms, shallot, garlic, thyme, parsley and Gruyere cheese amplify each other and the oats in the deep-flavor department for a profoundly tasty, intriguing and satisfying dish.
Serve it as a starter or side for roasted poultry or meat, or swap in vegetable broth and serve it with a salad in a larger portion as a vegetarian main course.
Mushroom Oat Risotto
Yield: 4 servings (makes 5 cups)
5 cups no-salt-added or low- sodium chicken broth 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 large shallot, chopped (1/2 cup) 8 ounces sliced mixed mushrooms 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or more as needed 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 1 cup dried, steel-cut oats (not quick-cooking) 1/4 cup dry white wine 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons shredded Gruyere cheese 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves, for garnish
Heat the broth in a saucepan over medium heat; once it starts to bubble at the edges, reduce the heat to low, cover and keep warm.
Heat the oil in a large, high-sided skillet over medium heat; stir in the shallot and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until softened. Add the mushrooms, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper and cook for about 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have released their water and begin to brown. Add the oats and cook for about a minute, stirring, until they are lightly toasted, then stir in the wine.
Add two ladles of the hot broth and cook, stirring frequently, until it is absorbed; then add one ladle of broth at a time, cooking until nearly absorbed each time, stirring frequently, until the oats are al dente; this will take about 25 minutes. (You do not need to stir constantly.)
Stir in 1/4 cup of the cheese until it is melted. Serve hot, garnished with the remaining 2 tablespoons of cheese and a sprinkle of parsley.
Nutrition information per serving: 310 calories, 12 g protein, 35 g carbohydrates, 13 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 300 mg sodium, 5 g dietary fiber, 6 g sugar.