December 02, 2011

Stir the Pot...

Risotto is one of those foods that require demand a long, leisurely approach.  On a cold winter afternoon when the wind is blowing outside and the last thing I want to do is brave the cold, THIS is the kind of food that happily keeps me indoors and in front of the stove.

This is comfort food on every conceivable level. On days when you need a bit of a mental break, I whole-heartedly recommend making risotto... 20 minutes of stirring while you lovingly watch the pot of rice in front transform into something ethereal you can be just what you need.

The whole key to risotto is the slow process allowing the creaminess of the rice to come out and that can only be achieved by not rushing it.  Knowing this going into it makes the constant stirring a welcome change of pace from the frenzied dinner preparation most of us normally experience.

Don't let the thought of the stirring deter you from making this,  it really isn't more than a bit of pouring in stock and stirring for the better part of the cooking.  Some people find it a bit off-putting to be tethered to a stove for a period of time,  but if you have children that are a little older have them do the stirring for you.  Getting your kids involved in the kitchen is the best way for them to learn.

As always, having everything ready to go (or your mis-en-place) will make things go smoother so measure out the ingredients before you start the rice.

Butternut Squash Risotto
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced small (1/4 inch pieces)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 cups chicken stock, homemade is best but if you buy it get the best quality you can find
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 large shallots, minced
  • 10 ounces Arborio rice (1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp fresh sage, finely chopped

  1. Before we get started,  a word about the wine...  When you cook with wine, it doesn't need to be expensive, but it does need to be good.  Always cook with something you would drink, the food will reflect it if you do otherwise.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Toss the diced butternut squash with the olive oil, 1/2 tsp kosher salt and a few turns of the mill of fresh black pepper.  Lay the butternut squash out on a sheet pan in a single layer and roast in the oven for about 20 - 25 minutes until very tender and slightly caramelized. Set aside.
  3. Heat the chicken stock in a saucepan.  Leave it on low heat, it needs to stay warm as you add it to the rice.
  4. In a heavy-bottomed pot, melt the butter and saute the shallots on low - medium heat for about 10 minutes until the shallots are translucent. Add the sage and let it perfume the butter.  Add the rice and stir to slick the grains of rice with the butter.
  5. Add the wine and cook for 2 -3 minutes, then add 2 ladles of simmering stock to the pot.  Season again with a little salt & pepper.   We're building flavor here, so we need to season as we go...  Give it a good stir, let it simmer and keep stirring until stock is absorbed, about 5 - 10 minutes.
  6. When stock has been absorbed, add in 2 more ladles and stir frequently until the stock is absorbed and rice is cooked through, but still al dente.  (about 30 minutes).
  7. Remove from heat, add Parmesan cheese and roasted squash.  Stir to combine and serve.


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