Its no secret that I love risotto. I just love the creamy texture, smooth flavor, and the endless possibilities for mix-ins. I also think its so relaxing and therapeutic to just stand at the stove and stir, stir, stir.
I'm also a big fan of butternut squash, so its no surprise that this risotto is a winner in our house. You even get another hit of squashy flavor by simmering the fibers and seeds with the chicken broth. While this adds an additional few steps, the result is well worth it. This recipe uses a slightly different technique, adding 3 cups of the chicken broth at the onset instead of over time in more increments. Whether or not this made a difference in the flavor, I couldn't tell, but it did save a little time and effort in cooking. The only changes I made to the original recipe was to use shallots instead of onions, and to add a pinch of saffron threads. I just really like shallots in risotto, and I thought saffron would add a nice depth of flavor.
The only complaint I have is that we are apparently not fans of sage, and will be omitting it next time. Joey said he felt like he was eating a Christmas tree. He did manage to eat around it, but I wasn't a huge fan either. Cook's Illustrated also gives a variation of adding spinach and toasted pine nuts, and I think I'll try that next time we have this.
Butternut Squash Risotto
adapted from Cook's Illustrated
serves 4 as a main course, 6-8 as a side
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium butternut squash (about 2 lbs), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch dice. (about 3 1/2 cups). reserve fibers and seeds
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 teaspoon pepper
- 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 cup water
- 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 large shallots, diced ver fine (about 1 cup)
- 2 cups Arborio rice
- pinch of saffron threads
- 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
- 3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 2 Tablespoons minced fresh sage leaves
Lower heat to medium and add squash fibers and seeds to the skillet, and any leftover diced squash you might have. Cook, stirring frequently to break up the fibers, until lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a medium saucepan and add chicken broth and water. Cover and bring to a simmer. Allow to simmer at a bare simmer over low medium-low heat.
Melt 3 Tablespoons of butter in the skillet over medium-high heat. When foam subsides, add shallots, garlic, and remaining salt and pepper. Cook until shallots have softened, 3-4 minutes. Add rice and saffron to the skillet and toast, stirring often, until the grains are translucent around the edges (about 3 minutes). Add wine and cook, stirring frequently, until fully absorbed, 4 to 5 minutes.
While wine is evaporating, strain the hot broth through a fine-mesh strainer set over a medium bowl.. Press on solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Return broth to saucepan, and set over low heat to keep broth hot.
When wine has been completely absorbed, add 3 cups of hot broth and half the cooked squash to the skillet. Simmer, stirring every few minutes, until liquid has been absorbed and the bottom of the pan is almost dry, about 12 minutes.
Add 1/2 cup of broth at a time and cook, stirring constantly, until absorbed between each addition. Repeat 2 or 3 more times, or until rice is cooked to al dente. Remove from heat and stir in remaining Tablespoon of butter, Parmesan, sage, and nutmeg. Gently fold in the remaining squash. If needed, add an additional 1/4 cup of broth to loosen the texture of the risotto. Serve immediately.