Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Butternut Squash Risotto

After living on my own for the past two and a half years, I would like to think I've fine tuned my cooking skills. Every time my mom comes into town, my inflated sense of personal top chef skills get absolutely smashed, as she whips together the most delicious and inventive meals. Clearly I still have a lot to learn.

On one particular evening, with a butternut squash looking especially lonely on my counter, we decided to make a creamy risotto. I consider myself a complete newb when it comes to the squash/gourd family - basically having only used them for decorating purposes. I watched intently as my mom simultaneously baked, sauteed, chopped, peeled, stirred, babysat and caramelized each portion of this dish, to create one of the best meals I've had this chilly season. I'm already itching to make it again!

  • 1 butternut squash (about 2 pounds), peeled, seeded (fibers and seeds reserved), and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, divided
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 small onions, chopped very fine (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh sage leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
- In a nonstick skillet on medium-high, heat 2 tablespoons oil until shimmering but not smoking. Add about 3 1/2 cups squash in even layer and cook without stirring until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes; stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until squash is tender and browned, about 5 minutes longer.

- Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.
Return skillet to medium heat and add reserved squash fibers, seeds and any leftover diced squash. Cook, stirring frequently until lightly browned, about 4 minutes. 
Transfer fibers to large saucepan and add chicken broth and water; cover and bring to a simmer over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low to maintain simmer.
- Melt 3 tablespoons butter in the empty skillet over medium heat. When melted, add onions, garlic, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper. 
Stir occasionally, until onions are soft, 4 to 5 minutes. 
Add rice to skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until grains are translucent around edges, about 3 minutes. 
Add wine and cook, stirring frequently, until fully absorbed, 4 to 5 minutes.
- Strain hot broth through fine-mesh strainer into a medium bowl, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Return strained broth to saucepan and discard solids in strainer; cover saucepan and set over low heat to keep broth hot.
- When wine is fully absorbed, add 3 cups hot broth and half of reserved squash to rice. Simmer, stirring every 3 to 4 minutes, until liquid is absorbed and bottom of pan is almost dry, about 12 minutes.
- Stir in about 1/2 cup hot broth and cook, stirring constantly, until absorbed.

- Repeat with additional broth 2 or 3 more times, until rice is al dente. Turn off heat and stir in remaining 1 tablespoon butter, Parmesan, sage, and nutmeg.
- Fold in remaining cooked squash. 

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