Ham sandwiches don’t usually start with oatmeal. But one thing leads to another around here in ways I can’t always predict. Getting from Point A to Point M is seldom a straight line.
Point A: It’s been unusually cool for May. This time last year we had the kiddie pool out. But sweater-and-sock weather asks for oatmeal.
Point B: I got distracted while measuring out the oatmeal and milk/water, a simple 1:2 ratio so this is a little embarrassing, but somehow I messed it up because it was too liquidy coming out of the microwave. After a brief huh…what-did-I-mess-up-there moment, I solved this problem by taking a handful of oats (with my hand), adding it to the liquidy, almost-ready breakfast, and giving it another 2 minutes. This resulted in no-longer-too-liquidy oatmeal that had somewhat more texture than usual, the late addition not having had as much cook-time as usual. But cooked al dente, like that pasta stage just before it’s really soft, when there is still the tiniest element that’s uncooked, and sweetened not unliberally with brown sugar, it hit the spot.
Point C: My al dente oatmeal, delicious as it was, did not seem worthy of a photo, so there isn’t one (and a photo cannot convey al dente anyway), but adding more oats also resulted in… more oatmeal. Which is to say, leftovers. On my dear German friend Claudia’s first trip to the U.S., she coined the word over-lefts, which she and I still say sometimes 😊 and which is a sub-point of Point C and not Point D, in case you were wondering.
Point D: I stared at the over-lefts and was about to do my usual – look in my non-working dishwasher for the right size plastic container and transfer oatmeal from bowl to chosen container and place in fridge. What might have steered me away from this idea was 1. The bowl I had microwaved the oatmeal in – an old beauty that I got almost thirty years ago from a man who was then in his 80s and had probably had it since he and his wife got married in the 1940s. A spectacular bowl! Same bowl I often use to mix up bread dough (that’s a clue).
And 2. (this being a sub-point of Point D) I have been playing around with yeast rolls lately. (Heading toward some kind of bread she is, anyone can see that.)
Point E. I never made rolls starting with leftover oatmeal, never heard of that, but sure, why not? (The following is not a recipe, in case you were wondering and/or looking for specifics. The following is me playing with food.)
I let it cool a bit, added a cup of not-too-hot-not-too-cold water and a tablespoon of yeast (or what looks like a tablespoon in the palm of my hand) and half a cup of flour or so, and stirred this up and walked away. I suspect it helps the end result, this “proofing” of the dough (though I cannot be sure). In any case I get a charge out of the little bubbles that form as the yeast begins its vital and magical work. This was worthy of a photo so here you go. Fifteen minutes (or so) later), bubbles!
Point F: Having seen that adding yeast, water and flour to leftover textury oatmeal produces a promising start, I remembered that the raisin rolls I made twice recently came out just fine and I decided to take the leap to Leftover Oatmeal Raisin Rolls. This being an experiment (and not a recipe, as stated above), I added some sugar (guessing 1-2 tablespoons, it’s said to feed the yeast, though I know it’s not essential), some salt (a palm-measured teaspoon, never make bread without salt, whatever you do), some more flour (two cups maybe?) and some chopped up raisins.
I love raisins, but they are a bother when un-chopped-up in dough, always plopping out and being uncooperative, and any of you who have tried to chop raisins with a knife will know that that’s not easy either – they stick to the knife and get all clumpy. I used (and was reminded of the usefulness of) this handy-dandy cutter that I know they still make because you can get it at my favorite grocery store, Yoder’s.
I put the raisins in a bowl and let the blades do the cutting work while I do the up and down work. This thing chops nuts too. You gotta love a cutter with the manufacturer’s name stamped into the top like this. There’s not even a zip code. I love it.
Adding the raisins and then seeing the raisins and the bubbles gave my heart a leap. What can I say?
Well then (and you see this is all under Point F, The Making of the Dough), I added more flour till there was just enough so the dough pulled away from the sides of the bowl, turned it out and kneaded it (adding flour as needed) until smooth, then covered it and left it alone to rise, suspecting that the weight of the oats would lengthen the rise-time, which turned out to be correct but I got distracted anyway and a couple hours went by.
Point G: Thankfully guests are starting to come to the cottage again, so I spent some time over there preparing things. The other thing going on and occupying time during the dough-rising is the siding on the house. It’s all well and good for the front to look nice, but the rest looks pretty crappy, so – one side at a time – this needs to be done too. On the wall that looks out over the mountains we have the obstacle of the electric box that was attached to the house in 1973 on top of the original siding, which was attached to stuff that tries to be plywood but instead (I swear) is packed sawdust. It calls itself “insulation board” and claims a value of some kind that means nothing to me.
Look what it does when you pull it off the wall. It’s gross.
It breaks, crumbles and collapses, which was actually quite handy as we had to get it away from the back of the electric box while said electric box is still attached to a stiff pole. This we accomplished, rendering the box free-standing on its pole, not standing straight in this picture, not attached to the wall at all, but the electric company will help with that part one of these days.
Point H: This was a nasty job, fraught with we-are-working-around-an-electric-box worries. You get hungry doing all this stuff (and worrying), so lunch was early and included dividing the dough into 12 pieces and making knots on a baking sheet so they could rise a second time in proper, rolls-in-a-row formation.
Point I: After lunch we got real plywood up, followed by house wrap. Somewhere in there I peeked into the oven and saw that the rolls had raised well, so I took them out to get a decent picture (plus, you don’t want to see the inside of my oven)…
(Point J): …and put them back in and turned on the oven and set a timer, knowing I would get involved with siding and not be in the house, i.e. not able to depend on my nose to tell me they were ready. Forty minutes later they were a glorious golden brown and the house smelled like a bakery, which all by itself makes this well worth the effort.
I broke one open to see what the texture was like (umm, yes, also had a nibble)… Oh, yum! Well worth the effort.
Point K: By dinnertime the outside wall was looking like this, with real plywood, house wrap, some siding, and the box ready for the guy from the electric company to come and attach it properly.
But by then I was tired and wanted an easy dinner. Earlier I’d picked some lettuce and spinach from the garden, so a good dinner to me sounded like a salad plus some of these raisin rolls plus a slice or two of ham. Raisins go with ham, right? And you know that ham I mean – the kind that comes pre-sliced, maybe ¼” thick (great stuff for adding to scrambled eggs). A little oil or butter in a hot pan gives these slices a beautiful color and adds to their flavor. Super fast, super easy, super yummy. Works for me.
Point L: I gave Sandy his dinner in two plates – salad on one and sautéed ham slices and rolls on the other. I planned to eat my dinner in discrete sections: ham, rolls with butter, salad (in that order). I gave Sandy mustard because normally he puts mustard on ham.
But no. Not this time.
Sandy put the ham slices on the raisin roll and called it the best ham sandwich! Raisins go with ham, right?! It was gone before I had a chance to document this historic event. Day Two for lunch we added thin apple slices (also his idea, bravo Sandy, full of culinary genius lately).
Point M (as in yuMMMMMMM!): With or without the apple, these sandwiches were an unexpected pleasure from leftover oatmeal!