How to prepare some hot cereals

BURNING QUESTIONS

January 24, 2007|By Erica Marcus | Erica Marcus,Newsday

A colleague has just switched from instant oatmeal to the long-cooking variety, and she asked for advice on cooking it.

I'm partial to Wheatena, grits and multigrain cereals from either Arrowhead Mills or Bob's Red Mill. One thing these cereals have in common is that their packages all are wrong about cooking times. Fifteen minutes? 20 minutes? More like 40 minutes to an hour, in my experience.

Nor do I pay attention to the packages' recommendations for water-to-cereal ratios. The more water, the better, I say - at least 5-to-1. I put the cereal and a large quantity of water into a pot big enough so there are a couple of inches of headroom. I also add a good pinch of salt. If your water isn't salted, you'll never be able to correct the lack of salt at the table because you won't be getting the salt into the grains.

Bring the mixture to a boil, then turn it down to a simmer and partially cover the pot. Keep the heat on very low so that you have a slow simmer. Stir every once in a while, first with a whisk and then, as the mixture thickens, with a wood spoon or spatula.

A well-made hot cereal is creamy because the grains have absorbed enough water to plump and soften them. To tell whether your grains are soft enough, eat a small spoonful. There should be no grittiness.

Erica Marcus writes for Newsday. E-mail your queries to burningquestions@newsday.com, or send them to Erica Marcus, Food/Part 2, Newsday, 235 Pinelawn Road, Melville, NY 11747-4250.

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