Autumn Squash Risotto

Somehow the last month of summer seemed to fly by in just a few days; how is it over already? Summer is my favorite season by far – the hot, humid weather, the outdoor fun, the fresh produce, the ice cream… So it’s always difficult to transition to fall, but the cooler (beautiful!) weather and amazing fall foods are definitely helping. Our CSA boxes have been a nice mixture of summer produce – tomatoes, bell peppers, green leaf lettuce – and the beginnings of fall – apples, squash.

Yesterday evening, I got started on the autumn recipes by trying a few that were new to me. (The risotto was a huge hit; the French apple tart had some difficulties, so I’ll share that one after another run.) Butternut squash risotto is a favorite of my husband, but although I’ve never made it before, I have had some practice with making risotto.

In our CSA box this week, we received a delicata squash. It’s a sweeter, more tender cousin of the butternut squash. It’s sweet flavor reminds me more of a sweet potato than a butternut squash. It was also surprisingly simple to prepare, as it is far easier to chop than some other winter squashes. I did not peel mine (on the recommendation of a googled website), but I would definitely recommend that you do. The rind was a bit tougher than I would have liked to eat, and I felt that it would take away from the risotto dish. I ended up peeling off the rind post-roasting; doable, but messy!

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I began by roasting this squash in the oven, and no one would complain if you served up this roasted squash as a side dish. But there is something so fall-like and delectable about an indulgent, creamy risotto. You can definitely use any autumn squash in a risotto, if you can’t find a delicata squash.

Risotto can be intimidating to make – but if I can do it, so can you! The most difficult part is timing when it will be finished, so that you can eat it right away. You’ll also need to be prepared to stand by the stove for an extended period of time. Although I’ve read that if you are making it correctly, it should take 23 minutes, start to finish, this has only happened for me one time. I’ll just have to keep practicing, I guess! Fine by me! (This risotto took me about 35-40 minutes, not including roasting the squash.)

I’m posting this recipe as a step-by-step pictorial, as this was most helpful to me when making risotto for the first time! Scroll to the end for a list of ingredients that you’ll need.

Give your squash a good rinse, then peel, using a veggie peeler or pairing knife. Next, slice the squash lengthwise.

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Chop off the ends and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and stringy inner flesh.

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Slice the squash into half-moons, about 1/2 inch thick.

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Spread out into a single layer on a foil-covered rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. You can also sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper, if you’re planning on eating this as a side dish, but I skipped the salt, since I’d be adding it into my risotto.

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Preheat your oven to 425 degrees and roast the squash for about 20-25 minutes, turning the squash with a metal spatula every 7 minutes (or so!). I roasted mine for 21 minutes and turned it 3 times, until both sides were lightly browned on most pieces and the squash was fork tender. Then, I chopped the delicata squash into bite size pieces and set it aside.

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Now. For the risotto. If you can make one kind of risotto, you can make them all! Or so I’ve read… Start with a large skillet over medium heat. Heat about 2 Tablespoons of olive oil or butter. When the oil is heated, add about 1/2 cup of diced onion. (At this point, you can also add any garlic or spices that you’d like to include.) Saute the onion for a few minutes, until it is soft and translucent. Meanwhile, heat about 6 cups of chicken stock or vegetable stock in a pot over low heat, until it just begins to simmer. You’ll need this stock later…

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Then add arborio rice (this is the rice you need to make risotto!) in to the pan with the onions and oil. I had exactly 1 cup of rice, so this is what I used and it was plenty for 3 people, with another healthy portion left over. Stir the rice, making sure that each grain is coated with oil. Add more if necessary (I added about 1 Tablespoon of butter). Toast the rice for about 4 minutes, until the outer part of the grains begin to look translucent and you can smell toasted rice. (Optional: add about 1/3 cup of white wine. While not necessary, the wine adds an additional depth of flavor, I think. Cook, stirring, until the wine is completely evaporated/ absorbed by the rice.

The next part of risotto-making involves adding stock (or broth) and stirring. Add the stock that you have simmering a ladle-ful at a time (about 3/4 cup). Stir gently until the broth has been absorbed. Then, add another portion of broth, repeating the process of letting the liquid absorb into the rice before adding another scoop of liquid. Keep gently stirring the WHOLE time!(This photo shows the second stock-addition.) I used about 4 cups of stock in my cooking, but it’s certainly not an exact science!

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The best way to tell if your risotto is done is to taste it! If you’ve eaten it before, you’ll have a good idea of what the texture of the rice should be. If you haven’t, you’re looking for the rice to be soft and creamy, with just a bit of a bite in the center. When you stir the rice, it will slowly flow back together, sort of like wet sand at the edge of the ocean.

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At this point, you’ve basically made the risotto. Congratulations! Now it’s time for the good stuff. Reduce the heat to low. Add in your roasted delicata squash (or whatever squash you’re using). Stir for about 1 minute. Add your grated cheeses and stir until melted. Next, add a couple tablespoons of heavy cream (I used about 3). Continue stirring until everything is heated through. Taste; add salt and pepper if you need to. At this point, I also added in a bit of stock, just to thin out the risotto a bit, as it was very thick with all that squash and cheese goodness!

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Enjoy immediately! Which is what we did, so there are no serving-dish-photos!

So, do you have any tips or tricks for making the perfect risotto? Better yet, what’s a must-make autumn recipe at your house?


Autumn Squash Risotto

My first go at risotto was mediocre. Then I found this website, which does a great job of explaining the technique. Clearly, I’m no expert, but my risotto-making improved significantly!

Here’s a list of ingredients you’ll need to make this risotto. I recommend you have them all ready before you begin!

whole winter squash (like butternut or delicata)

2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil + 2-3 Tablespoons olive oil or butter for the risotto

half an onion, chopped

1/3 cup white wine

1 – 1 1/2cups arborio rice (1 1/2 cups would make 4 generous servings for a side dish)

4 – 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese and 1/4 cup Romano cheese (or any combination of cheeses that you’d like)

2 – 4 Tablespoons heavy cream

salt and pepper

 

 

 

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