It's getting to be risotto weather. Or am I crazy? Fall just seems kind of risottoey to me. Kind of like pot roast or stew. And when you're making your risotto with butternut squash, well it just screams autumn. I've tried making Butternut Squash Risotto before and the result was not what I had hoped for. But this time, I had a new plan. The previous time I made it, I peeled, seeded and diced the squash, tossed with a little salt, pepper and olive oil and roasted it. Then I made a basic risotto and folded the roasted diced squash into it. I'm not saying it was bad. But what happened was, when I took the squash out of the oven, I had to taste it. It was good. So I had to taste it again. And well, just to be sure, I had to taste it a few more times. Quality control is very important. So by the time I finished tasting and testing, there wasn't much left for the risotto.
This time I'm starting with an around 2 lb butternut squash. Butternut just happens to be readily available, inexpensive and darn tasty. But my fave of the winter squashes is by far, the kabocha squash. But they are not readily available and they are not inexpensive. But they are delicious. So either way. Hell if you want to use acorn or delicata, by all means, feel free. Cut your squash of choice in half, take out the seeds and place cut side down on a baking sheet with either a little cooking spray or a light coating of oil.
Roast in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes. These suckers are hard and they take a long time to cook. When you take it out the cut side should be caramelized and all kinds of delicious.
Let it cool for a little while. When it's cool enough to handle, scrape out all the yummy and discard the skin. Then just mash it up with a fork. You can puree it in a food processor if you must dirty this annoyingly difficult to clean appliance, but a fork or even a potato masher will do the trick. And then set aside until later. It might get watery while it's stilling there waiting to be added, no worries.
Now for the risotto. It's pretty much standard. One small onion or two shallots, diced. I'm using a vidalia onion today because I was *gasp* out of shallots. How could this be! No worries, it won't happen again. Add the diced onion to a heavy glorious pot that already has two Tablespoons of butter and three Tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil heating up. Cook the onions gently on medium heat, just sweating them out. You don't want to brown them.
While the onions are sweating, in another pot you should have 5 and a half to 6 cups of chicken stock heating up. If you make this yourself, bravo! I don't always have time or inclination to make my own, but when I do I freeze it and us it as needed. This time I'm using my favorite stock in a box, Kitchen Basics. It's by far the best, has the least amount of sodium and is made right here in good old Cleveland (actually Brecksville) Ohio.
When the onions start to turn translucent, it's time to add the rice. You will need 1 and a half cups of a short grain rice, preferably Arborio. Add it straight to the butter/oil and onion mixture and stir it around to coat the rice.
Cook the rice for about 2 minutes on medium heat and then add 1/3 cup of white wine. Stir the rice and wine until the wine has all but evaporated. Now it's time to add your heated stock. You don't want it to boil on that burner, but just come up to heat. I use a large soup ladle and ladle in one or two each time. After adding that amount, stir the risotto while the stock gets cooked in. You don't have to stir constantly. I know a lot of recipes say to do that, but I don't stir constantly and it turns out beautifully. You want to stir a lot, don't get me wrong. And you don't want to walk off and leave the risotto unattended. But you don't have to give yourself that Tommy John elbow ailment from making risotto.
Don't forget to season as you go. You know how much sodium you have in your own stock or in whatever store bought stock your using so be as aggressive or passive as necessary based on that. This whole process should take about 20-25 minutes, adding another ladleful or two of stock after the last ones have cooked in. And when you're down to your last ladle of stock, add it in and then add in your mashed butternut squash and stir it in.
Thinking about this dish had me going straight out to my garden and picking a nice big bunch of sage. What says fall more than sage? And it's a beautiful accompaniment to butternut squash.
Look how pretty my hand looks holding this gorgeous sage. You would think I was in a commercial for sage the way I'm holding it. I feel so Vanna.
Clean and chop the sage into ribbons and add to the risotto just about when it's done.
And then as the final step, add three quarters of a cup of grated Parmesan cheese to risotto and stir it in. Now there is nothing left to do but enjoy it. Buon Cibo mia Amici.