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First American competes in Golden Spurtle World Porridge (a.k.a. oatmeal) Making Championship

October 9, 2009 |  8:00 am

Matt Cox's Oregon Orchard Oat Brulee will be the first ever American entrant in the Golden Spurtle World Porridge Making Championship in Scotland this Sunday.

To my mind, oatmeal is the most boring food on Earth. On its own, without nuts or raisins sprinkled in, it’s the equivalent of a blank canvas aching for paint. If you're into the conceptual, po-mo weirdness of bare walls and dudes sitting at pianos not playing a note, then oatmeal is probably the perfect food for you -- you and Oliver Twist. After all, gruel is only a tiny cultural leap away from its big-city cousin, oatmeal. When Dickens' titular orphan hero asks, "Please, sir, might I have more?" (I'm paraphrasing here), that's how we, as readers, are meant to understand how utterly wretched his life is. For God's sake, the boy is begging for oatmeal.

But if the culinary trends of the last decade have taught us anything, it's that one era's poverty food is another's gourmet treat. (In a world where millions starve to death, the privilege of being able to complain about oatmeal is not lost on me.) So this Sunday (which also happens to be World Porridge Day, a terrific event that helps feed children in some of the poorest countries around the globe), an international array of chefs who take oatmeal way too seriously will gather at the 16th Annual Golden Spurtle World Porridge Making Championship in Carrbridge, Scotland, where they’ll do their best to gussy up the tabula rasa of the breakfast world. And for the first and only time in the history of this storied oatmeal-cooking competition, an American entrant has stepped onto the field of battle.

The hopes, dreams and culinary pride of our nation rest on the shoulders of Matt Cox (of team Bob’s Red Mill), who will pit his Oregon Orchard Oat Brûlée against the best oats from around the world. Cox's signature oatmeal is a brûlée-topped wonder of steel-cut oats studded with a fruitful bounty of Oregon pears, cherries, hazelnuts and distilled spirits.

We don't know what odds the bookies have laid down, but Cox has the potential to blow the lid off the oatmeal world. You can cheer him on via Twitter or try the recipe that he spent months perfecting for yourself. Go, Team Oatmerica!

[Recipe after the jump]

Oregon Orchard Oat Brûlée
(recipe courtesy of Matt Cox and Bob's Red Mill)
1/2 cup steel cut oats, raw
1/2 cup steel cut oats, toasted
2 cups water
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup heavy cream

Soak oats in water overnight, covered.
Bring water and oats to a boil in a small saucepan.
Add salt and cream.
Cook 17-18 minutes, stirring. Remove from heat, cover and let set while preparing compote.
Makes 2-3 cups.

Pear Compote
1 1/2 cups diced pears (unpeeled), sprinkled with lemon juice
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
3/4 tsp. toasted crushed coriander seed
3/4 tsp. cinnamon/sugar mixture (made from ¼ tsp. cinnamon and 3/4 tsp. sugar)
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup dried sweet cherries
1/2 cup Clear Creek Distillery Pear Eau de Vie
3/4 cup granulated sugar for flambe
Finely chopped hazelnuts for garnish

Melt butter over low flame in sauté pan. When butter is just beginning to color, add coriander and let it perfume the butter for a few seconds. Add the pears, and give the pan a shake. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar and the salt over the pears and toss again to coat evenly.

Add the cherries and toss to coat. Turn the flame up and pour in the eau de vie. Tilt the pan to catch the gas flame and let the alcohol burn off. Continue to let the compote simmer until the juices begin to caramelize. Add to the oats and mix in gently. Spoon into three small bowls, mounding the tops.

Garnish with granulated sugar. Flambe. Add topping of finely chopped hazelnuts.

-- Elina Shatkin

Photo courtesy of Bob's Red Mill