Sunday, February 21, 2010

Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto

A few years ago when Martha Stewart was released from prison, a reporter asked her what she was having for dinner. She replied "Risotto!" I had never had risotto before although I'd heard of it. I figured that if Martha Stewart was having risotto for dinner on the first night she was released from prison, it must be something special. So I decided to make it. I couldn't believe my taste buds. I made the simple, classic recipe on the package of arborio rice. It was delicious.

Since then I've experimented with other combinations. Since I had an overabundance of butternut squash this fall I've made Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto several times. Since the first time I've made it I realized that it's one of those dishes that you can make substitutions and cut corners and it still turns out great. So, here's how I did it.

First, I cooked the butternut squash. Most recipes tell you to peel it first, but that is a LOT of work and I am looking for the Easy Button whenever possible.

I cut the squash in half, remove seeds, place cut side down on a stoneware pan with a little olive oil and bake till done. Then I scoop out the innards and discard the peel. This is a good way to do it when you have a lot of squash and need to get them processed quickly, which is what I had to do. I then packaged it in recipe-sized portions and froze it. Of course this only works when you will be mashing the squash. Ok, back to risotto...

In a heavy saucepan, saute 1 medium onion in a combination of olive oil and butter (about 3 Tbls. total) till tender & transparent, but not brown. Meanwhile, in another pan heat about 6 cups of chicken stock and keep it hot. Add 1-1/2 cups arborio rice to the pan with the oil and onions and saute for a few minutes.

Here you can add a little wine if you want to. Otherwise, begin adding the chicken stock, one half cup at a time. Cook at a strong simmer till the stock is absorbed, then add the next one half cup. Keep doing this till the rice is tender (or al dente if that's how you like it), which will take about 20 or 30 minutes. You're supposed to stir constantly, but hey, I don't. The rice will be creamy when done. Add the mashed squash, salt to taste, and add 1/2 cup or so of parmesan cheese, grated.

The thing that's neat about this is so long as you don't burn it you really can't screw it up. Also good - mushrooms and spinach instead of the squash.

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