Autumn’s butternut risotto

Autumn means it’s time for winter quash and other gourds!Newsletter - Nov15 - Butternut Risotto You notice it when the price of the summer squash starts rising and there are piles of butternut squash available, which Hungarians label ‘pumpkin’, and pumpkin is then called ‘Halloween tök’. This dish is guaranteed to fill you up and give you that warm feeling on a chilly autumn evening. Since it may take a while to prepare and cook, I’ll let you get to it.

(FYI, I made this and the risotto for the first time not long before writing this and it wasn’t difficult to get tasty results!)

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg butternut squash, peeled and cut into small, bite-size chunks. Keep seeds and fiber in separate bowl
  • 3 spoons of olive oil
  • Bunch sage (zsálya), leaves picked, half roughly chopped, half left whole
  • 1.5 l chicken or vegetable stock (low salt)
  • 50 g butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 300 g risotto rice (or other short grain rice such as sushi)
  • 150 ml glass white wine
  • 50 g freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions:

  • In a large skillet, heat two spoonfuls of olive oil on medium-high heat until shimmering. Once heated, add chopped squash in one even layer and cook 4-5 minutes without stirring. Stir now, add a pinch of salt and pepper, and continue to cook for another 5-6 minutes. Squash should brown and tender. Remove from skillet.
  • In same skillet add leftover squash, seeds, and fibers. Cook over medium high heat for about 5 minutes. Add to a pot with 1.5 L of chicken stock, bring rapidly to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
  • In same skillet on medium heat, melt half of your butter. Sweat onions with a pinch of salt gently for 8-10 minutes or until soft but not colored. Add rice and stir until completely coated in butter – rice is shiny and the edges of the grain start to look transparent – about 3-4 minutes.
  • Strain broth and squash innards through a fine mesh strainer, trying to get as much liquid as possible. Return to pot under low heat.
  • Add wine to rice and cook till absorbed, about 3-4 minutes. Add half of the cooked squash meat then add the stock. Begin adding one a ladleful at a time, and stirring the rice over a low heat, until incorporated, about 3-4 minutes, then add the next one. Repeat for 25-30 mins, until the rice is cooked al dente (with a slightly firm, starchy bite in the middle). The risotto should be creamy and slightly soupy. When you draw a wooden spoon through it, there should be a wake that holds for a few moments but not longer.
  • Remove from heat. Add remaining butter, sage, parmesan cheese and gently fold in remaining squash meat.

Serve, and bon appétit!

(If risotto is too thick add some additional broth to loosen up; I definitely used more than was called for)

Key steps to cooking great risotto:

  • Cook the rice in butter or oil until it becomes translucent before adding your liquids. This ensures that the rice will have taken on some of the oils, creating kind of a water-resistant coat. This keeps the rice’s starch from seeping out into the cooking liquid too quickly. If this happens, the rice will turn to mush before it is ready.
  • Never wash the rice. The starch is important to keeping the rice creamy.
  • Add your liquid in 1/4 cup intervals, only adding more once it has been completely absorbed.
  • To determine when you should add more liquid, lightly draw your wooden spoon across the bottom of your pot. You should be able to create a space as you draw your spoon across the bottom.

DID YOU KNOW?

  • Butternut squash has more vitamin A than a pumpkin. It’s rich in B-complex vitamins like folates, riboflavin, niacin, B-6 and thiamine.
  • Its seeds are a good source of dietary fiber and its mono-unsaturated fats benefit heart health.
  • Butternut squash is technically a fruit because it contains seeds.
  • Containing high levels of beta-carotene (which your body converts to vitamin A), butternut is a deterrent against breast cancer and age-related macular degeneration.
  • All rice is a member of the grass family. What makes Risotto (or Aborio) special is its high starch content.
  • Rice was first introduced to Italy and Spain by the Arabs during the Middle Ages.