Saturday, October 20, 2012

Butternut Squash Risotto

butternut squash risotto

When I first met the Monkey Scientist, he was taking his MCAT and getting ready to apply for med school.  I knew when I met him that he probably wouldn't be staying in DC, but I think it only took about 3 months of dating before I agreed I'd probably move wherever he went.  The main reason being that I knew he was from Chicago and therefore that's where he'd probably end up.  After college, a whole bunch of my friends moved to Chicago (and my baby brother is here for college), so I'd actually been contemplating a move here long before I met him - he was just giving me the push I really needed to make it happen.

Lucky for me, this is exactly what happened.  By the time we moved here, some of my Chicago friends had moved on to other places, but some were just moving here and others were contemplating moving back.  It's been so wonderful being close to family and friends, even though it's meant leaving some DC friends behind. This week was a great example - we had my college roommate and her boyfriend over.  She's one of my favorite friends and we went through a lot together in college, so it feels like old times when we eat with her.

grated butternut squash, sage, chopped onions

For this particular meal, I decided to make one of my favorite comfort foods - risotto.  My college roommate and I learned to make risotto when we shared a tiny bedroom in our first apartment. It was so small, we could lie in bed and hold hands - despite our twin beds being up against opposite walls.  We would often lay in bed late at night or on a lazy Sunday and watch Food Network.  That year was a huge learning experience for me cooking.  It was my first time living on my own in a place with a kitchen and we spent loads of time experimenting with all different recipes.

The risotto we made in college always started with shallots and was pretty simple, but the basic technique for this was the same.  This version is just perfect for fall, though.  It fit well with ingredients I had leftover from making this pizza a few days prior (but with bacon instead of proscuitto, duh).  The butternut squash adds the perfect bit of sweetness to risotto.  The smell of grated butternut squash mixed with the chopped sage smelled perfectly like October.  And now that it's getting cold outside, risotto is just the perfect stick-to-your-ribs food.  We all really loved this recipe and I'm sure your family will, too!

butternut squash risotto

Butternut Squash Risotto
very slightly adapted from Recipe Girl

4-6 c low-sodium chicken broth (use vegetable for vegetarian)
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh sage
1 small butternut squash- peeled, seeded, and grated (about 4 cups)
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 c Arborio rice
1 c dry white wine
1/2 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese
juice of 1 lemon

1. Warm the broth in a small saucepan over low heat. (Seriously, keep it on low.  Do not turn it higher.)
2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, salt and pepper and cook for 4 minutes or until the onions become translucent. Add the chopped sage and cook for 1 minute. Add the grated squash and garlic and cook until the squash begins to soften, about 3 minutes.
3. Add rice and cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes, or until the rice becomes somewhat translucent. Add the wine and cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid is absorbed, about 3 minutes.
4. Keeping the stove on medium to medium low, add the broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring as you add more and then occasionally while it's absorbing. Waiting until it is absorbed before adding another 1/2 cup.  To tell when it's time to add more, I like to push the rice to the side so I have a little well in the middle where I can see the bottom of the pan.  If that well has liquid in it, stir and wait a minute.  If it's really dry, time for more liquid. It should take about 30 minutes for all of the broth to be absorbed.  Start with 4 cups and taste it.  If the rice is still really hard, keep adding until it has a bite but doesn't taste uncooked.  When it's almost done, squeeze the lemon juice in and stir to absorb.
3. Remove from heat and stir in the Parmesan. Spoon into individual bowls. For presentation, you can garnish with chopped sage (or in my case, chopped chives).

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