Butternut Squash Risotto
This recipe is a bit more challenging and time-consuming. The result is spectacular and delicious, though, and well worth the effort. I love to make this risotto on a cool autumn day – it is substantial, delicious, and imparts a lovely warm feeling when there is just a bit of a chill in the air.
The basis of this recipe is borrowed from Jack Bishop – one of the best and most reliable cookbook authors I have encountered. If you are interested in purchasing a new cookbook, take a look at one of his books – I am sure you won't be disappointed.
A note on the use of Wine: It is obviously illegal to serve alcohol to minors. I have, however, not encountered any information that labels using alcohol as a flavor-enhancer during the cooking process as problematic. General consensus seems to be that the amount of alcohol retained after cooking is so miniscule (particularly on a per-serving basis) as to not pose any problems – especially if the amount added during the cooking process is minimal to begin with.
If you have concerns, please feel free to substitute the regular wine with a non-alcoholic one.
1 Butternut Squash – about 2 – 3 lbs.
4 Tbs Butter
4 cups Vegetable Broth
2 cups Water
1 large Onion, finely chopped
3 gloves of Garlic, minced
1 ½ cups Arborio Rice
¾ cup White Wine
1 cup Parmesan (freshly ground)
2 Tbs fresh Sage, coarsely chopped
Dash of Nutmeg
Preheat oven to 450 degrees
Slice squash in half, length-wise
With a spoon, remove strings and seeds – but reserve them in a sauce pan that can hold at least 6 cups of liquid.
Melt 1 Tbs of the butter and brush onto the freshly cut interior of the squash.
Sprinkle a bit of salt on top of the butter.
Place the two squash halves, flesh up, onto a baking pan - preferable one with a rim to contain any drippings.
Bake for 45 – 60 minutes. Check after 45 minutes if the squash is soft by poking a knife or fork into the flesh. The squash is done when you feel very little resistance.
Remove squash, let cool, and remove the softened flesh.
Retrieve the sauce pan with the reserved squash seeds and strings.
Add 4 cups of vegetable broth.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and let simmer for 20 minutes.
Pour broth through a fine-meshed strainer into a bowl.
Use the back of a spoon to press the remaining liquid out of the cooked string/seed mixture. Do not mash it through the strainer. You do not want any stringy parts in your broth but really just want to get as much flavor out of the mixture as possible.
Return broth to the sauce pan.
Add the 2 cups of water and bring to a boil again.
Turn heat off and cover the pan to keep the broth warm.
Heat 2 Tbs of butter in a very large sauce pan.
Add the chopped onion and cook until transparent (about 3 to 4 minutes). Make sure you stir the onions occasionally.
Add the minced garlic and cook for another 30 seconds or so – until the garlic is fragrant.
Add the rice.
Stir the mixture until the rice is coated with butter and attains a slightly more transparent appearance (about a minute).
Add the wine.
Cook until the wine is almost completely absorbed (this can be anywhere from 15 seconds to a minute, depending on the heat of your pan).
Add a cup of the hot broth.
Stir until the broth is almost absorbed.
Add another ½ cup of broth and keep stirring until absorbed.
Continue adding broth ½ cup at a time, stirring frequently, until all the broth is used up. Do NOT add all the broth at once!
Once all the broth is used up, your risotto should be al dente. If it has too much of a bite to it, add a bit more HOT water (never use cold water), stir until absorbed, and sample the rice again. Some people like their rice to have more of a bite, but I prefer mine to be soft, especially since my daughter complains if the rice still has a bit of a bite.
Turn off heat!
Assembly of the Risotto:
Add the chopped Sage, ground Parmesan, and remaining butter to the rice. Mix gently. You don't want to mush it all together.
Add the softened squash to the rice. Mix gently.
Season with Salt, Pepper, and a dash of Nutmeg.