(Note on the photo: I took this photo after the risotto had been sitting out for a while; it was actually much moister in person. (heh.) (sorry. can't help it.))
This dish is probably more appropriate for winter, rather than the steamingly hot Yorkshire summer day we had yesterday. OMG you guys! It was 85 degrees! That's, like, SUMMER! I haven't had one of those since I lived in South Carolina. Sorry, Alaskans - 70 degrees is not summer, no matter how pretty it is. Talk to me when you need to take another shower the minute you step outside.
The well-written and homey SimplyRecipes.com is my source for this one-dish vegetarian meal. My husband was skeptical - it's vegetarian, it involves...squash...and...did I mention the squash? But he took one bite and made a noise that prompted me to check and make sure there were no Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Editions lying around.
Risotto is labor-intensive but not particularly time-consuming. The hardest part for me was figuring out how to "finely dice" a butternut squash. I had to microwave the dang thing just to get it soft enough to the point where I could cut it without a Sawzall - and then the bits were too hot to handle well. Also: how does one go about peeling a butternut squash with any success? There are several web sites devoted to this theme (here's one), but unfortunately I'd already grabbed the knife by the...handle...and proceeded apace, so what I got was a bit of a hacked-up mess. My sins admitted and forgiveness requested, I actually think it turns out better to have up to a 1/2 inch dice on your butternut squash, rather than fine-dicing. As my husband pointed out, he likes to be able to identify what he's eating. Also: if you don't get all the peel off, it won't kill you. I promise.
Also a time-saver: I used frozen diced onions. But I don't know if I'd do that again - the onions really should be finely chopped - I can't say the risotto didn't taste great, but I think the idea is to minimize the impact of other textures and flavors. There's not even any garlic in this recipe! The horror!
One thing I did not skimp on is vegetable stock - I actually made my own. Making vegetable stock is ridiculously easy, but it takes about an hour, so if you want to go that route instead of using pre-bought chicken or veggie stock, budget the time for it. There's a great, easy-to-follow recipe on allrecipes.com - but the short answer is:
- cut up a couple of onions, carrots, celery stalks (minus the leaves), peppercorns, and a whole bulb of garlic (with cloves peeled)
- toss, along with maybe some potato scraps or leftover veggie peelings, into a big ol' pot with a bunch of water
- bring to a boil
- turn down the heat to low and let simmer for an hour (not too much longer, or the stock will taste...wilted)
- strain and use.
6-8 cups chicken or vegetable stock
5 T. unsalted butter, divided into 4 T. and 1 T.
1 small onion, finely chopped (ha!)
2 cups butternut squash, peeled and finely diced (whatever.)
2 cups arborio rice (can substitute medium-grain white rice, but you should use arborio. It will make you feel chic and sophisticated. Or at least poorer.)
1 cup dry white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc (I think I used a Pinot Grigio - it was el cheapo)
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 T. chopped chives or garlic chives*
Salt to taste
- Heat your stock or broth up on a burner turned way down low, just to keep it warm.
- Melt 4 T. of butter in a large saucepan; add onion and butternut squash. Cook over medium heat until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Add rice to onion and squash. Cook 1-2 minutes. Add wine. Cook, stirring constantly until wine has been absorbed by the rice or evaporated. This will make your kitchen smell like the back-end of a bar, but I'm tellin' you, it's worth it.
- Add a few ladles of stock, just enough to barely cover the rice. Cook over medium heat until broth has been absorbed.
- Lather, rinse, repeat - keep adding stock and stirring and waiting 'til the moisture's absorbed, adding a little bit at a time...cook..stir....cook...stir....etc. until the rice is tender but still firm. This should take about 15-20 minutes.
- During the last couple of minutes of cooking, add that remaining tablespoon of butter, about 1/3 cup Parmesan, your chives, and salt to taste (I used about a teaspoon of kosher salt).
- At this point the rice should have a creamy consistency. I'm not even going to bother attempting an off-color joke with that one - it's too easy.
- Serve with remaining grated Parmesan.
*Looking back over this recipe and the results, I think I would add another herb besides or instead of chives - chives kind of get lost in the taste, to me - but maybe that's because I used dried chives (which I don't recommend, btw - they taste like pencil shavings, only less aromatic). Maybe a wee bit of dill? Thyme? If anyone makes this recipe, let me know the herbs you used. It needs something colorful, that's for sure.