Monday, November 22, 2010

Don't Be Squashed By A Recipe Risotto

If you have not yet made your own risotto, you should give it a try sometime soon.  An Italian rice dish, risotto is typically served as a first course, but it can be modified to serve as main course or side dish.  Plus, it works year-round as you can vary the flavor using in-season vegetables, meats, spices, and cooking liquids.

And, while I am going to give you one, you don't need a recipe to make risotto.  You just need to understand the basic preparation of the dish, and add the ingredients you prefer.

First, start with the type of rice.  You want a medium- or short-grain rice.  They are better able to absorb liquids and release starch and become sticky.  The rice is sautéed for a short time in a soffritto (onion and/or garlic with olive oil and/or butter) to coat the grains in fat.  Wine and or beer is then added to be absorbed by the grains.  Turn up the heat  under the rice and gradually add small amounts of hot stock while almost constantly stirring.  It usually takes me 20 to 30 minutes of adding liquid and stirring; adding and stirring.  The stirring loosens the starch molecules from the outside of the rice grains into the cooking liquid to create a creamy textured dish.  During the last few minutes of cooking, you can add vegetables or meat (typically cooked) and stir.  Then, once you take off the heat, make it even more creamy by adding a bit of butter and grated cheese.

Butternut Squash Risotto
Serves 4 to 6

2 lbs butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch chunks
4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
salt and pepper, to taste
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup water
1/3 cup onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup beer (I used lager)
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp ancho chili powder
2 Tbsp butter
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Spread chunks of butternut squash on a baking sheet.  Drizzle with 2 Tbsp of olive oil, and add salt and pepper to taste.  Roast in 450 degree F oven for about 25 minutes.  This is an easy step to do ahead of time.

In medium saucepan, bring chicken broth and water to boil.  Leave on simmer.

In another medium pan, heat remaining 2 Tbsp of olive oil.  Add onion and garlic, and saute for 2 or 3 minutes until starting to soften.  Add rice to pan and toast for another 2 to 3 minutes.  

Add beer and cook it out completely, stirring occasionally.  This took me about 3 minutes.  Then, while continually stirring, add hot broth and water mixture to the rice 1/2 cup at a time.  Allow the liquids to be absorbed each time before adding another 1/2 cup.  Continue until no liquid remains.

When the final 1/2 cup of liquid has been added and is almost absorbed, stir in cooked butternut squash chunks.  Stir in nutmeg, salt, and pepper to taste.  Add butter and stir in as it melts.  Turn off heat and stir in grated Parmesan cheese.

Spoon into bowls and serve immediately.

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