This is my new go-to meal when I get home after a long day, tired and hungry. Five ingredients. Ten minutes. Rich, crispy strips of bacon with silky spinach quickly sautéed in olive oil, over a creamy, nutty ‘risotto’ of Hodgson Mill Oat Bran Cereal, sprinkled over with grated parmesan, a pinch of sea salt, and a grind of black pepper. It’s is an incredibly speedy way to a meal that’s delicious and satisfying without being too heavy.
The beauty of oats is that a little salt one way or a little sugar the other is the tipping point for dinner vs. breakfast/dessert. Remember when we talked about how convenient it is to make a big pot of steel cut oats for the week, and using different toppings to keep your meals exciting? It got me to thinking about other, more savory ways you can dress up a hot cereal, and this is the first dinner-worthy combo I’ve found that’s good enough to tell the world about . (Using bacon feels a bit like cheating–what isn’t delicious with bacon? But it’s just so tasty with the oats.) And if you aren’t a fan of sweets for breakfast, it makes a fantastic start to the day, too.
I find I personally like the texture of oat bran cereal the best when I use half whole milk and half water. Feel free to experiment one way or the other; it works to make it with water, and it works to make it with all milk; I do think it is helped by a little bit of fat. If you agree, but all you have is water, you could always add a little knob of butter or a glug of olive oil.
I like to fry up the bacon first, and let it drain between paper towels and get nice and crispy.
The cereal transformation during cooking is so fast, it’s almost magical. One second it’s oats swimming in liquid –
Then suddenly it’s starting to come together, and you can see the bottom of the pan as you stir –
And suddenly, it’s steaming and sticking together and bubbling thickly. It’s finished!
That’s it. You’re so close. If the toppings aren’t quite ready, you can spoon the cereal into bowls and cover it fairly tightly with plastic wrap for a few minutes—this way no skin forms on the surface of the cereal.
Just before serving, I swipe the bacon pan dry-ish with a paper towel, heat it over medium-low and glug in a teaspoon or so of olive oil, then throw in the spinach and stir. As soon as it’s a uniform gorgeous deep emerald , about a minute, turn off the heat. It will keep cooking for a few seconds, and you don’t want to overcook.
Throw it all in a bowl and sprinkle with parmesan and black pepper, and dinner is on. You could serve it with a glass of white wine if you want—it feels pretty classy and decadent.
This taste combo works very well over steel cut oats or multigrain cereal as well – feel free to experiment with whatever’s in your cupboard. Have you found any other savory toppings that transform hot cereals into a quick, satisfying meal?
Gourmet Savory Hot Cereal with Spinach, Bacon, and Parmesan
For each serving:
1/2 cup Hodgson Mill Oat Bran Cereal
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
2 slices bacon
1-2 packed cups fresh baby spinach
1-2 teaspoons grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon olive oil
Fresh ground black pepper
Fry bacon strips in a medium-large skillet to taste (I prefer crispy and crumbly and dark with this combo), then transfer strips to paper towel-lined plate and let drain and rest.
In a medium saucepan, mix cereal, water, and milk with a pinch of salt. Heat over medium low about 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until you can make a furrow in the cereal that shows you the bottom of the pot and doesn’t come together too quickly. It should bubble thickly and hold together fairly well. Turn off heat. Cover tightly with lid or plastic wrap until toppings are ready.
Heat medium skillet over medium low heat, and add olive oil. (You can also use a little leftover bacon grease if you really love bacon.) When oil is hot, add spinach and stir quickly until it wilts and becomes a uniform dark green, about one minute. Turn off heat. Do not overcook.
Spoon hot cereal into serving bowl and top with bacon and sautéed spinach. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese, a pinch of sea salt, and a bit of fresh ground black pepper. Serve hot. If there is a lull between cooking cereal and serving, cover tightly to prevent skin from forming on hot cereal. Enjoy!
Note: Serves one. Recipe may be doubled, tripled, quadrupled etc. Serve immediately, or hot cereal may also be covered tightly and refrigerated for up to 2 days for reheating, if desired.