Thursday, October 23, 2014

Butternut Squash Risotto

By: Claire Tenscher

A good friend of mine introduced me to winter-evening-butternut squash risotto. I will eat it in any season. But when fall arrives and it begins to get dark early, I get a hankering for its chewy squashy flavors. This recipe, adapted with help from her, creates a huge batch, perfect for leftovers and filling enough to be a main course. I was lucky enough to use a squash my stepmother grew this summer, but all the ingredients are available at Berryvale.

A note for anyone who hasn’t made risotto yet: Arborio rice uniquely absorbs liquid and forms a creamy consistency when cooked properly due to its unique starch content.  To get the perfect texture one gradually adds liquid (1/2cup to 1cup at a time) to the rice for about 40 minutes. Each time you add liquid you allow the rice to absorb it before adding more.

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Sauteed Butternut Squash

While only half a squash is needed for the Risotto, I recommend cooking the whole thing and using it on salads, for pasta and as a snack all week.

1 Butternut Squash
4 Tbl Olive Oil
Salt to Taste
Pepper to Taste

1) Cutting the Squash:
Use the biggest cutting board you have, squash cutting can be a dangerous business, it’s imperative to not crowd yourself! Cut off the top and bottom of the squash, then peel. Cut the squash into two halves. Slice both halves down the middle (this is the hardest part). Scoop out the seeds and pulp. Slice each quarter of the squash into large slices about ½” thick. Stack these slices up and cut them into sticks. The sticks can then be turned and cut into perfect, easy dice. Repeat that with the other pieces: quarters to slices to sticks to dice!

2) Cooking the Squash: Pour about 4 tablespoons oil into a nice big skillet (or do this in two batches if you don’t have access to a giant skillet). Heat the oil on medium high heat until a drop of water sizzles immediately when dropped in the pot. Add your squash and a pinch of salt and pepper if you like it. Sautee until the sides have browned to your liking and the squash dice are tender all the way through. Use that as an excuse to snack on some of the squash. Once you are happy with the tenderness and brownness set the squash aside and get to work on the risotto!

Risotto Ingredients

Olive Oil
½ a butternut squash, diced and roasted as above
1 medium yellow onion finely chopped
1.5 cups Arborio Rice
6 cups broth (low sodium is best)
1/2 cup + a splash Dry White Wine (optional)

1)    Put the broth in a pot on a back burner over low or medium heat. It’s best to add warm broth to the risotto. You can also make a stock using bouillon cubes and water.  I would suggest a low sodium broth, the salt adds up quickly in Risotto because of the way the liquid is absorbed and cooked off.

2)    No need to wash the squash pan, keep it on medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive Oil. When it’s warmed, add the chopped onion.

3)    Once the onion is softened – this will take about 10 minutes so it doesn’t brown – it is time to add the Arborio Rice. Turn up the heat a little bit. Measure it in and put it on top of the onions. Sautee for around a minute and a half, this gives a great toasted flavor.

4) Add the white wine and stir until little liquid is left. The heat should be high enough that the wine comes to a boil fairly quickly.

5) The Broth Step: It is time to start gradually adding liquid. I generally use a partially full 1 cup measure to add warmed broth to the risotto. Stir kindly and let the rice absorb the liquid. If you don’t see the liquid simmering in the pan, turn your heat up slightly, we don’t want a full boil though, at a simmer the rice cooks evenly.

6) After a few minutes, when the broth has nearly vanished add another cup of liquid.

7) As the rice plumps up, add salt and pepper if needed.

8) Continue adding liquid (a la step 6), until the rice seems done. Taste it to check the flavor (more pepper?) and see if it is tender enough. Depending on how al dente you like it, keep cooking. If you are running low on broth, add some water to your warmed broth on the back burner.

9) When the rice is done to your liking, add the butternut squash. If you want a creamier risotto it can be added with the liquid about half way through cooking. Stir gently, add a little broth if it seems too thick.

10) Optional Dairy: If you are vegan, skip this step or use your favorite vegan cheese! Add a splash of cream and/or about a half cup of grated Parmesan.

11 Remove the risotto from the heat and cover. Let it sit for 2 minutes. Yes, it’s hard; but this step makes it creamy and perfect. Wash the stock pan, set the table, just leave it alone.

12) Eat immediately.

Serve with sautéed chard, or a salad.