The idea behind this recipe surfaced as I looked for ways to enhance pre-flavored oatmeal packets. On its own, I truly hate the taste of Maple & Brown Sugar Oatmeal. Not only is it too sweet for me, but I always think it lacks depth in flavor. It’s just like, “AHHH MAPLE!!!!! BROWN SUGAR!!!!!” It has no captivating nuances. No variation of texture. No fruit, no interesting spices . . . just sugar, sugar, and sugar.
You can pump up Maple & Brown Sugar Oatmeal in numerous ways as I discussed in the aforemetioned post. I knew I was going to add a banana—because bananas are like oxygen to me—but I also wanted to add an interesting topping. Considering I was in Minnesota at the time, I “stole” some rhubarb from my sister’s front yard (I assure you she will not miss them) to make this super easy topping.
Poaching is easy. The definition of poaching is simply simmering something in a liquid. For example, you’ve probably heard of wine-poached pears, which is merely a pear simmered in wine (which is an excellent idea since pears are gross and flavorless). You can poach any fruit (or eggs, haha) in anything: from water to tea to juice to wine to some other sort of spiced concoction.
(Note for later: poach pears in Jameson and coffee. Call it Irish Pears. Sell it at farmers’ markets and make millions. Consider that copyrighted haha.)
I cut up my rhubarb the night before and soaked it in a container in the fridge. This made the poaching process super easy in the morning because the traditionally crunchy rhubarb was already somewhat soft (kind of like soaking cashews). I kept my poaching liquid simple since strawberries and rhubarb are already a tried-and-true combo and have enough punch on their own. (They don’t need to be pampered quite like those dull pears.) I used only water and a bit of lemon juice.
After simmering (for what felt like forever but was probably more like 10 minutes), I strained out the fruit and left the liquid in the saucepan. This is when you make the reduction sauce. It truly is one of the easiest “fancy” cooking techniques you will ever try, in my humble opinion.
You will watch it for the first few minutes. You will doubt my intellect. You will think, “She’s crazy. This looks like a pool of bubbling strawberry juice. Maybe I should add cornstarch or something?” You will insist that the thin liquid in front of you will continue simmering with no change.
You are justified in doubting me, as this can be a tedious process. But don’t walk away!! Just keep stirring it regularly at a low simmer, and finally, after what feels like way too long, you will see the liquid become more concentrated. You will see it thicken up and reduce into a bubbly sauce.
But now you need to step in and stop that madness immediately. If you leave that sauce on too long (or alternatively, if you take it off the burner but let it sit aside for too long), you will be left with a sticky, caramel-like goo. And not in a good way. We’re looking for a sauce, not a hard candy.
Below is the recipe for the sauce. As mentioned before, I put this on top of Maple & Brown Sugar Oatmeal with a banana mixed in. You could, of course, do the same, but if you’re looking for a homemade option, might I suggest Banana Chai Latte Oatmeal (without the steamed milk), Spiced Banana Oatmeal (scroll down to the variations), Strawberry Banana Oatmeal, or just Basic Banana Oatmeal?
What you'll need:
- 3 tbsp diced rhubarb, soaked overnight if possible
- 2-4 strawberries, hulled and sliced
- 1/4 tsp lemon juice
- sweetener, if desired (I omitted)
How to make it:
- Add diced rhubarb and strawberries to a saucepan and cover with just enough water to cover the fruit. (If you did not pre-soak the rhubarb, leave out the strawberries and give the rhubarb a 5-minute head start.)
- Place the saucepan over medium heat, and adjust until it sits comfortably at a low simmer. It should not be a boil.
- Add lemon juice. If using added sweeteners, also add now.
- Check on and stir mixture occasionally. This could take 10-15 minutes.
- Check the rhubarb. If it’s tender, you’ve successfully poached! Otherwise, give it another couple minutes.
- Use a straining spoon to scoop out the strawberries and rhubarb and set them aside in a small bowl.
- Leave the remaining liquid in the saucepan. Make sure the heat is still at a simmer. At this point, you will want to keep a constant eye on the soon-to-be sauce. Stir every 30-60 seconds so nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan.
- When the liquid has reduced to about half its size (it should be a beautiful deep crimson color, but not a dark sticky goo), immediately take it off the burner.
- Serve immediately. First add the poached strawberries and rhubarb on top of your oatmeal, and then pour the reduction sauce over it.
Just an FYI:
Due to the time sensitivity of the reduction sauce, you should prepare the oatmeal first (or while the fruit is poaching) so that it’s ready to be topped and eaten immediately. You could poach the strawberries and rhubarb, strain it out, and skip the reduction sauce.