Being married means, among many other things, taking part in your significant other’s family traditions. One of these, a favorite of my husband’s family, is weekly Saturday morning breakfasts at Kuppy’s Diner in Middletown, Pennsylvania, where we both grew up. Built in the 1930s and probably still serving some of the same, classic diner dishes like fried eggs and scrapple, Kuppy’s is a Middletown institution, and everyone in our tiny town has been there at least once, if not once a week.
On a recent trip home, my husband’s family, myself now included, packed into a few cars and headed over to Kuppy’s one early Saturday morning. In the midst of mulling over my breakfast choices—chocolate chip pancakes or eggs and bacon?—my husband’s mother leaned over and recommended the baked oatmeal, which wasn’t on the menu. If I’ve learned anything in my life, it’s that off-the-menu items are awesome, partially because of the food itself, and partially because the idea that not everyone knows to order it makes it taste even better. Although in hindsight, probably everyone in Middletown knows about their baked oatmeal. Oh well.
When my baked oatmeal was placed before me a few minutes later, the warm scent of butter and cinnamon curling up gently from the bowl, I was hooked before I had even taken a bite. I added a splash of whole milk as recommended, and dove in. The oatmeal was finely ground and absolutely soaked with butter, crumbly but not dry, dense but not overwhelming, and utterly homey and wonderful. As my new family dug into plate-sized pancakes and fried slices of scrapple, I took tiny bites of what I had decided was my favorite new breakfast food, savoring the cinnamon and nuttiness of the butter.
When I returned to Pasadena, I called Kuppy’s and asked the woman who answered, one of the Kupps who owns the diner, if I could possibly have a copy of their recipe so I could replicate good, hearty Pennsylvania food in California. I was politely denied. The recipe, she said, was secret, and only known to their family. Rats.
So I embarked on a harrowing, many-months quest to re-create their baked oatmeal. After trying a few recipes, and sulkily eating several bowls of what was called baked oatmeal, but I really knew wasn’t, I finally found the winner. It’s not Kuppy’s, but it’s darn, darn close. Serve warm, with a splash of milk, and a dollop of butter if you think it’s not buttery enough, which it is, but you really can’t beat extra butter.
3 cups quick-cooking oats (I didn’t have these, so I ground regular old fashioned oats in the food processor until I could only see little bits of oats, and this worked just fine)
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 cup whole milk
½ c. butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten
In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients. Spoon into a greased 9-inch-square baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes. Serve warm with milk. Yield: 6-8 servings.