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Well I will warn you if you stop here for my photographic prowess (highly doubtful) this is not the post for you. I have made this 3 or 4 times in the last couple weeks and hell if I have gotten even ONE picture of the process, the ingredients or even the final product. I think that is probably complimentary – we eat it too fast or something, but I didn’t want to keep postponing the post, it is PERFECT time of year for this dish, waiting until I got pictures taken of it. I know, I know. I was told eleventy billion times that you simply CANNOT have a food or recipe blog without pictures – *shrugs*

Been having that problem a lot lately, not posting things because I don’t have pics. Don’t think I am going to sweat that as much as I have been & hopefully post more often. I’m sure there are a ton of people who plan and plot posts but I don’t cook like that. I am more of a what sounds good-found while shopping-is living on my fridge/pantry cook; this leads to great successes and the occasional failure and me more often than not not getting pics of everything I cook. Imma work on that. In the mean time take my word for it that this risotto should be made sight unseen. It does not disappoint.

TO BUSINESS!

Happy Belated Turkey Day! I hope that you & yours ate until you could eat no more! We had a great feast with the family on the actual day then had a Friendsgiving this last Sunday with a BUNCH of awesome ‘Friends’ (see what we did there?!? :)  so needless to say I am just about done with turkey for a bit though I am pretty sure that I have nailed the easiest way to deliciously roast a turkey, but that is another post.

Winter squashes (think butternut, acorn, pumpkin) are different than summer squashes (think zucchini, yellow); they have harder rinds, their meat is not as delicate or tender and they are heartier in flavor and resilience. They start to appear at the beginning of fall and have an amazing shelf life if stored in a cool dark place. Their flesh is very seasonally appropriate ranging from rusty oranges to rich yellows. I kind of love them in all sorts of shapes and sizes and they do come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors. My personal favorite is butternut squash. Part of my love is the gorgeous color, but mainly it’s because it’s delicious.

image courtesy of Wikipedia

Acorn squash are the other most commonly found, smaller & shaped differently with a slightly lighter flesh but are interchangeable with butternut squash in  most recipes. For me the butternut has better flavor, but the acorn is dead useful is a lot of recipes – picture them halved and stuffed with a brown rice & bean filling baked with some kind of sauce – tasty.

image courtesy of nutritionmythbusters.blogspot.com

Winter squashes are versatile – they can be slow roasted, pan roasted, sauteed, fried, grilled…pretty much anything you can think to do to them can be done – they are tough veggies. And also hearty. Kind of like a potato or sweet potato winter squash adds some substance and uumph to all kinds of recipes. I dig roasting them – halved or peeled & diced, just depends on what kind of time I have. Roasting them until they start to caramelize and soften up gives them a slightly sweet, rich & creamy flavor/texture that makes my mouth happy.

Risotto is nothing to fear, either. It looks and sounds a lot more complicated than it is, and compared to most rices it IS more complicated, but it is so totally worth it. Risotto, when done properly, tastes like it is loaded with cream, cheese and all sorts of other things that taste good but really aren’t all that good for you. It really isn’t though. Risotto is made with arborio rice, a short grain, starchy rice. When cooked the right way it creates its own gloriously creamy sauce that yes, I do amp up with a little cheese, because, well, why not, but doesn’t really need it to be good.

Risotto takes some time & attention. Stock is added in smaller increments while the rice cooks at a slow simmer, absorbing into the rice slowly and creating that creamy saucy goodness I mentioned earlier. It needs stirred, so this isn’t one of those things you can put on low and forget, but the rest of dinner has to be made, too, so I do that while it works its magic on the stove.

I recommend getting your hands on a butternut or a couple acorn squashes and roast them for this recipe. If you don’t have that kind of time or a lack of desire canned pumpkin (a 15oz can) can be used in place of the fresh roasted squash.

Step #1 – I wrote this part for enough to make the risotto, but if you are going to do the work roast off some extra & throw it in the fridge, its delicious as a side sautéed in a little butter or prepared any way that you would make a sweet potato. It also freezes well, too.

Roasted Winter Squash 

  • 1 whole Butternut Squash OR 2 Acorn Squash
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt & Fresh Ground Black Pepper

The Less Laborious but Takes Longer Method Heat the oven to 350 & line a big enough roasting pan with foil. Cut the whole squash(es) in half lengthwise and use a spoon to remove the seeds. I save the seeds and roast them like pumpkin seeds, same delicious difference. Place the halved & de-seeded squash on the foil lined tray, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt & pepper. Roast in the oven, uncovered, until they are tender, an hour to hour & a half, upon occasion even two. The skins will get hard but the flesh of the squash will get soften and start to caramelize on the edges. When done remove from the oven and let set out until they are cool enough to handle. Use a spoon to scoop out the roasted squash and mash with a fork until it is pulpy. The yield from a whole butternut squash or the 2 acorn should be around 3 cups, plus or minus a little on either end. If you prepared extra it can be stored as is or dice it up for later use.

The More Knife Work but Roasts Much Faster Method Heat the oven to 350, line a sheet tray with some foil. Remove the skin from the squash. This is a challenge. I cut off the top & bottom to get 2 flat surfaces and use a paring knife to peel off the rind. This is easier to do, due to the shape mostly, with a butternut squash, the acorn squash can be a pain in the ass. Once peeled (perfection isn’t dire) cut into 3/4″ thick slices then dice. Spread on the foil lined tray, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt & pepper. Roast until tender and the edges start to caramelize a little bit, about 45 minutes to an hour. Remove from the oven, get into a bowl and mash with a fork until it is pulpy. Same 3 cups-ish yield with this method as with the half roasting. Any extras can go into a container and into the fridge for something else delicious.

Roasted Squash Risotto makes enough for 4 generous servings with leftovers

  • 1/4 cup Butter
  • 1 medium Onion, small Diced
  • 2 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio Rice
  • 3 cups Roasted Squash or 15oz can Pumpkin Puree
  • 2 1/2 cups Chicken Stock
  • 1/2 cup Fresh Grated Parmesan/Fontina/Asiago/Romano (you get the idea)
  • pinch Fresh Grated Nutmeg (optional but I like it a lot)
  • Salt & Fresh Ground Black Pepper

Heat a large bottomed saute pan (preferably one with a lid) over medium high heat. Melt the butter, add the onions and garlic. Sweat over medium heat until translucent and sweet smelling, about 4 minutes. Season with a little bit of salt & pepper. I also recommend a wooden spoon for this. It just works best.

Add the arborio rice and saute with the onion until it is coated with butter. Add the roasted squash and let come back up to heat, softening the squash and working it into the rice. When the pan is hot again add 1/4 of the stock and bring to a gentle simmer while stirring. Let it bubble slightly while stirring frequently until almost all of the liquid is gone, it will make a hissing sound as you drag a wooden spoon through it. When it gets to that point add another 1/4 of the stock and stir in. Bring back to a simmer and repeat this process until all of the stock is added and reduced out.

Taste it now for texture, to see if the rice is done. A perfectly cooked risotto should be al dente firm when you bite into it, it should kind of stick to your back teeth a little, there should ne NO crunch and on the flip side no mush. If the rice is slightly underdone add another 1/4 to 1/2 cup of stock and cook into the rice until it is done.

Use heat to adjust the consistency if you need to. The risotto should not be soupy when it comes off the stove, it should be creamy but somewhat wet. Sprinkle on the cheese and grate a little bit of nutmeg over the top, stir in to completely combine. Taste it and adjust the season now with any more salt & pepper. When the flavor is kick-ass cover and let the risotto rest for 10 minutes or so; this lets the sauce set, it should be clinging to the rice, creamy but not gummy once it is done, and all the flavors marry. The color will be a gorgeous bright orange…now go eat it!

Leftovers, if you have any, reheat beautifully and/or make awesome risotto cakes when rolled in some panko and pan fried real quick. I served it with crispy skinned pan roasted chicken thighs and a pile of roasted turnips. A fall FEAST!

I also made this for Friendsgiving. When I was pondering our menu I was thinking about some of our friends that can’t have gluten (no stuffing! NIGHTMARE!), are vegetarian (no bacon! or turkey! Circle of HELL!) and can’t have dairy (*weeping in a corner, brb) and this dish was a winner for all of them. It’s rice – so no gluten, the cheese & butter can easily be eliminated with only a minor difference because the squash is delicious and the stock can easily be swapped for a vegetable one with no noticeable flavor differences, might need a little more salt.

Some easy recipe modifications

To make the recipe vegetarian substitute vegetable stock for the chicken stock.

For Vegan/Dairy-Free substitute olive oil for butter and vegetable stock for chicken.

I need to go find me a few more butternut squash…I think I might have a risotto problem.

Oh…and here’s a cute picture of my dogs to make up for the lack of photo. They both have had it and they though it was pretty damn good, too.

Puppy Collage

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