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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

butternut squash risotto

butternut squash risotto

For regular readers of AHB, you may know there are a few things that I don't really follow a recipe for (meatloaf, meatballs, bolognese, lasagna, etc), and that includes risotto. Once you know the main base, you don't really pay attention to the full recipes. You start reading a recipe to see the combination of "filler" ingredients, and get ideas, and think about how that might fit in with versions you've already tried and liked. This always makes me feel like a "real" cook, since I can think about how different ingredients play off each other without feeling the need to blindly follow a recipe I have no clue about. But it leaves me with the tiny problem of crediting all the various ideas that go into a new risotto back to all the possible articles that may have contributed to it.

For this one, I had seen lots of risottos and pastas (and even a chili) that included butternut squash, since it's that time of year. There seems to be a consensus on adding some sort of salty complement to the sweetness of the squash (for example, adding squash to a beef brisket based chili, which I haven't tried yet but will). So what about using bacon, and the resulting bacon grease, as the starter for a risotto? I won't take credit for the idea, since I may have seen it multiple places, but I can't find anything exact. Anyway, here's what I did.

Grocery list: 1 cup arborio (risotto) rice, 1 cup white wine, 3 cups chicken stock, 3-4 slices bacon, 1/2 butternut squash (roasted and cut into cubes), 2 T minced fresh sage, 1 T minced fresh thyme, 1 small yellow onion, 2 cloves garlic.

saute bacon to start risotto

Chop 3 slices of bacon into small pieces, and add to a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Depending on the fat content of the bacon, you might want to add a touch more olive oil to the pan (I did).

onion garlic bacon thyme for risotto

After the bacon has cooked for a few minutes and started to crisp, continue with your risotto base. For me, that means adding a finely chopped onion (and a couple minced garlic cloves, which is different than most risottos where I use shallots) and about a tablespoon of chopped fresh thyme leaves. Because butternut squash tastes better with sage, I added 2 T minced fresh sage leaves here too. Stir and cook until the onions are translucent.

add rice to risotto

Add 1 cup of arborio rice and stir well. Allow to cook for 2-3 minutes, then add a glass of white wine (between 1/2 and 1 cup). Keep stirring until all the liquid is absorbed.

mixing broth into risotto

Heat 3-3.5 cups of chicken broth until it's steaming (either in the microwave or in a pot next to the risotto). The key is to have 4 total cups of liquid for every 1 cup of rice, so 1 cup white wine + 3 cups broth, etc. Stir in the broth 1 cup at a time, stirring after each addition until the liquid is absorbed. This will take about 15-20 minutes of cooking, stirring, adding broth, repeating.

Finally, stir in the cooked butternut squash pieces and season with salt and pepper to taste.

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