Oatmeal is not my favorite food. It makes me look like a child eating lima beans, and I eat it with a sad face. But with some butter, there’s a way to turn oatmeal into something even haters can enjoy: crisp, fried oatmeal squares.
If you’ve ever had leftover oatmeal in the fridge, you’re aware of how it congeals. Oat groats contain quite a bit of starch, and when you cook rolled oats the starches will gelatinize, resulting in a thick porridge. When left to cool, the oatmeal sets and holds its shape. In fact, it holds its shape so well that, out of the fridge, you can unmold oatmeal from the bowl and hold it in your hand like a starch frisbee destined for a trash can.
You should try fried oatmeal squares
Similarly to polenta, this thick starchy brick can be cut into shapes and fried in butter. What was once an unappetizing, wet, gray brick of desperation can been transformed into a golden, toasted, crispy-edged treat. Once fried, you can serve it sweet or savory.
Fried oatmeal squares start with plain old oatmeal. This preparation is great news for leftover oatmeal, or if you’re tired of the traditional bowl of oats and you’re looking for a change up. It’s even good for fair-weather oatmeal eaters (like me) who want to love it but can’t deal with frequently eating warm mush.
Once you’ve cooked the oatmeal per the package directions, pour it into a lightly oiled baking dish, or any vessel with walls. The intention is to have a ½-inch thick oatmeal layer. Smooth out the top and put it in the fridge (covered if you’ll make it tomorrow, but it’s not necessary if you’re frying it day-of). Allow it to chill for an hour, or overnight. Once you’re ready, unmold the oatmeal by loosening the edges and flipping the container over onto a cutting board. Cut the oat slab into squares. Alternatively, if you’re only making one or two squares, you can leave the oatmeal in the dish and cut shapes while it’s inside, then use a spatula to scoop out the pieces. I recommend a serrated knife to saw through the groats so you get clean edges. In a frying pan, heat up a ¼ tablespoon of salted butter over medium heat. Once the butter melts, add a block of oats and let it cook for two or three minutes, or until browned and crisp. Flip the square over to brown the other side, about two more minutes.
Salted butter is key. If you only have unsalted, then I fully suggest sprinkling each side of the oat square with a heavy pinch of salt prior to frying. After frying, you can dredge the fried oatmeal in cinnamon sugar, drizzle with a heavy stream of maple syrup, or even top the hot oat square with bacon, cheese, and a runny egg.
For an extra savory level-up, dredge the oatmeal squares in a grated, hard cheese, like in my recipe below. The cheese will stick to the existing moisture of the cooled oatmeal, so there’s no need to dip it in egg or anything like that. The heat from the pan will melt the cheese and immediately crisp it to a golden brown because of the low moisture content of the hard cheese, and since the cheese is crisp, you’ll be able to easily flip it with a spatula so the other side can melt and crisp too. In the end, you’ll be gifted a tantalizing oat parcel encased in cheese.
How to make parmesan-crusted fried oatmeal squares
- 1 ½ cups of cooked old-fashioned oatmeal
- Pinch salt
- 1/2 – 1 tablespoon of salted butter
- ½ cup shredded parmesan cheese
Make oatmeal as usual using the package directions. While hot, pour the oatmeal into a lightly-oiled rectangular baking dish. Smooth out the top. Cover and let cool in the fridge for an hour or overnight. (If you already have leftover stiffened oatmeal in the fridge, don’t worry about making squares. Simply take a knife to it and cut out oat “steaks” to fry.)
Unmold the cold oat plank onto a cutting board and cut into four to six squares with a serrated knife. Firmly press 1 tablespoon of cheese onto one side of one square.
In a frying pan, melt about ¼ tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Once the butter melts, add the oatmeal square, cheese-side down, to the frying pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes. While it’s cooking, press 1 tablespoon of cheese onto the side facing up. Once the cheese has browned, flip the square and cook for another 2 minutes, or until browned.
Repeat for all squares. Sprinkle a dash of salt over each oatmeal square and serve alongside eggs, stew, salads, or on its own.