Monday night I came home from work after walking from the train station in a gray, drizzly mist. I was damp, cold, and in a grumpy mood … so my first thought was to make comfort food. (Ok, no I lie … my first thought was a vodka martini. My second thought was comfort food!)
For most people comfort food means something like mac and cheese, or maybe grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, or perhaps mashed potatoes with all the toppings. Mine is similar; it’s that same combination of starch and cheese that makes the best comfort food … it’s just not what most people expect. So what is my ultimate comfort food? Oats and cheese.
Now wait. Hear me out before you start making those faces and exclaiming that oats need brown sugar and fruit, not cheese. Think about it for a minute … we put cheese in grits right? We put cheese in polenta. We put cheese in risotto. All of those things are grains of some kind … so why not put cheese in oats? It’s the same combination of starch and cheese as those other things. You just have to be willing to push oats beyond the realm of breakfast food and let them participate in other meals!
So anyway … I decided that I needed comfort food. But I also needed a real dinner, with some protein and some veg. So I created my own version of the very southern shrimp & grits: shrimp and oats. So I got a nutritious meal AND I got my comfort food on a gray and drizzly day.
Start with 1/2 cup of whole, steel cut oats. Don’t use the precooked instant version for this. You want some texture to this dish. Melt a tiny bit of butter (really tiny .. maybe 1 tsp) in a pot and toss the oats around until they’re coated. Then gently roast them over a low heat until they start to turn a light, toasty brown. If you get close, you’ll smell a rich nutty smell as they toast up. Don’t skip this step .. the toasting of the oats gives them a deep, rich flavor that you just don’t get from starting with raw oats.
Once your oats are a rich golden brown color, add 2 cups of water (it’ll sizzle a lot, so watch out) and bring them to a simmer. Cook them for about 20 mins, stirring once in a while to make sure nothing sticks. When you can stir them and the bottom of the pan remains visible for a few seconds, your oats are done. They should be creamy and cooked through, but slightly al-dente.
(If you’re going to make shrimp with these, now is the time to set a large pot of water on to boil.)
Turn off the heat and add in about 1/3 – 1/2 of a cup of shredded sharp cheddar cheese. Make sure it’s sharp cheese (or extra sharp is even better). Stir well until the cheese melts and the oats look even more creamy.
In the meanwhile, toss your still frozen shrimp (assuming you don’t have fresh) into your boiling water. I like to season my water with a generous amount of Tony Chachere’s creole seasoning, but you can add whatever you like, or just boil them in plain water. Immediately cover the pot and set your timer for 2 minutes. (You can also grill or saute the shrimp for this recipe, but in the interest of time and not swimming in butter, I just boiled them. Plus who wants to grill in the rain!)
When the 2 minutes are up, remove the shrimp from the water quickly. They’ll continue to cook just a little bit out of the water, so don’t leave them in much longer. You don’t want them to be tough.
Then spoon the oats and cheese onto a plate or into a bowl and top with ~8 shrimp for each serving.
Serve with a tossed green salad (like the one I have here with spring greens, feta cheese, and my favorite quick and easy Dijon vinaigrette).
It’s super easy to make and so good. I really hope you’ll try oats and cheese (with or without the shrimp) at least once! I think you’ll like it.
Just in case you want a real recipe, here it is:
[print_this]Shrimp + Oats + Cheese
- 1 tsp butter
- 1/2 cup steel cut oats
- 2 cups water
- 1/3 cup shredded sharp or extra sharp cheddar cheese
- 16-18 medium shrimp (I get the frozen, tail on 31-40 size shrimp from Costco)
In a medium sized pan, melt the butter over low heat and then toss the oats in the butter until coated. Return to the heat and toast until the oats are medium brown.
Add 2 cups of water and bring to a simmer for 20 mins, stirring occasionally. When the oats are tender but not mushy, and you can see the bottom of the pan for a few seconds while stirring, they’re done.
Turn off the heat and add the shredded cheese. Stir well. Salt to taste at this point.
Bring a large pot of water (seasoned as you choose) to a full boil. Add the still frozen shrimp, cover the pot, and cook for 2 minutes. The water may or may not return to a boil, but that’s ok. Remove the shrimp promptly when your timer goes off. They will continue to cook a little from residual heat, so you don’t want them to overcook.
Spoon 1/2 the oats and cheese onto a plate and top with 1/2 the shrimp. Serve with tossed salad.
Nutritional value for the entire meal, including salad, feta, and dressing:
Cals 458 | Fat 20g | Carbs 30g | Fiber 4g | Protein 34g