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Cream of Wheat Recipe

David Kahn | Feb 15, 200405:32 PM     19

Several months back, someone posted a request for a recipe that would match the cream of wheat served at The Neighborhood, a small Portuguese breakfast/lunch joint in Cambridge/Somerville, Mass. After several months of experimentation, I think I've come pretty close. For those not fortunate enough to live near The Neighborhood, my approximation is as follows:

Ingredients (for two modest servings)

1/4 cup 10 minute Cream of Wheat (yellow box)
1.5 T unsalted butter
2 T sugar
1/4 t kosher salt
1/4 t cinnamon
1/4 t good vanilla extract
2.25 to 2.5 cups 1% or 2% milk (whole milk works too, but fat content is not as important to the creaminess of this dish as you might think -- I suspect that, like risotto, it's the starch that makes it creamy.)

Melt 1 T of butter in a medium sauce pan over medium low heat. Once melted, add the cream of wheat and stir often until it just barely begins to brown. (If you go too far and get noticeable browning, throw it out and start over.) Stirring constantly, add 2.25 cups of milk, reserving the remaining 1/4 cup to adjust the consistency later. You'll get a burst of steam when you first start to add the milk to the frying cream of wheat, so watch out, but if you don't stir at this point, you'll get lumps. Once the milk has been added, turn the heat down to low, and add the salt, sugar and cinnamon. Let cook slowly for about ten minutes, stirring often, then stir in the vanilla and remove from heat. The porridge will continue to cook for a bit, and will thicken some as it cools. Consistency is key here -- you want the finished product to have the texture of a warm loose pudding, which means it needs to be on the liquidly side at this point. If it's too thick, add a bit more milk to thin it out. Cover the sauce pan and let it sit for five minutes or so, then stir in the remaining half T of butter and pour into two bowls. At the Neighborhood, they add a shake cinnamon before serving, but if you want to get fancy, you can also add a teaspoon or two of sugar and caramelize it with a torch (like a creme bruleé). Also, you can add a bit of nutmeg along with the cinnamon if you like, but be careful -- the nutmeg tends to overpower the other relatively subtle flavors in this dish -- one scrap on the nutmeg grater is enough.

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