Monday, December 6, 2010

Butternut Squash Risotto

When people ask me what's the best dish I cook, I immediately think risotto. Risotto is dead simple, but for some reason most restaurants eff it up. However, if you nail the dish, most people will be shocked how delicious it is. The keys for a great risotto are the rice kernels need to be al dente, the dish needs to have a loose texture, and it needs to be creamy.

Risotto is very basic - generally made up of rice, stock, and cheese/butter only, so you need to make sure all components are of excellent quality. The rice for me has to be vialone nano -great texture, cooks quickly, and absorbs flavors perfectly. The stock either has to be homemade or if using store bought, you need to boost up the flavors with additions such as chicken bones, veg, etc. Butter needs to be high quality/high-fat and cheese generally should be parmiggiano.

Any who, this is the first one I've made in ages and it rocked. Prefect comfort food with the cold weather. The dish is beautiful to look at and the butternut squash flavor permeates throughout the dish. The problem with this is that you can't eat that much of this stuff since it's hella filling/rich, so make sure to have a ton of people over when you cook this dish.

3 cups Vialone Nano Rice
1 cup Sake (I would normally use wine, but I didn't have any)
2 quarts chicken stock
Left over flavor boosters (I had mushroom stems from 10 shitakes in the freezer)
2 Bay Leaves
1 cinnamon stick
1 butternut squash halved (seeds and stringy bits in the core reserved)
2 onions diced
3 cloves garlic minced
Salt and Pepper
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 stick butter cut into small dice
1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano

1) Start heating up the stock. In a tall stock pot, sweat one of the onions, garlic, mushroom stems and butternut squash stringy bits in extra virgin olive oil for about 5 minutes over medium low heat. Add chicken stock, cinnamon, and bay leaves, cover, raise to high heat, and when it comes to a boil reduce to low. I kinda dig the cinnamon in the broth and it pairs well with the squash.

2) Roast the squash in a 400F oven with olive oil salt and pepper. Cook for about 40-45 minutes. When you roast squash, it intensifies the flavor tremendously. I prefer this to sauteing or steaming which I've seen in other recipes. When cool, peel the skin and dice squash into small pieces. Set aside.

3) Sweat and salt the remaining onions and half of the diced squash in a large saute pan (12" preferable) over medium low heat for about 5 minutes with the oil. Make sure to use a large saute pan that has tall sides since the rice will expand.

4) Add the rice and toast for about 5-7 minutes. Make sure to stir the rice frequently since it'll stick/burn pretty easily. This will help make the risotto uber creamy.

5) Add some wine/sake in to the pan and cook for about 30 seconds. This definitely adds a good amount of brightness to the risotto, so don't skip this step since it'll act as a balance to the richness.

6) Add the first cup of broth to the pan and stir until the bottom of the pan is dry. The next step is sometimes frowned upon, but I add 1/4 of the broth. I was initially anti-adding a ton of broth at the start of the process, but after reading some books and watching some Italians (from Italy) do this I figured why not. The key is to continue to stir every couple of minutes so it doesn't burn.

7) Add more broth and the rest of the squash. Make sure to smash down the squash - it'll break apart pretty easily. I like adding the squash in two phases to add different levels of squash flavors to the dish. The timing here is hard, but you're usually looking at 22-25 minutes overall to finish cooking the risotto. The only way to tell is eventually the rice won't take any more broth and the broth just sits on top. Finally taste - if it's chalky cook more and add some more broth. If it's too dry, add more broth

8) Finish with cheese and butter (mantecare). This step will add an additional creaminess and boost up the risotto with a ton of flavor. Taste and season with salt if required. Plate and finish with your best extra virgin olive oil. Buono appetito!


Angela Archer said...

This looks/sounds delicious! You're right, a lot of restaurants Eff it up. I've noticed that the al dente part seems to be missing, most of the time.

Thanks for the recipe, I'll have to try it sometime soon!

Aramis said...

Thanks Angela. Risotto is so simple and pure, so details are incredibly important and as always you need to make sure you taste multiple times towards the end to make sure you have the seasoning and texture spot on.