Even as I type this, I am eating the last few bites of something amazing I just made for dinner. Butternut squash risotto turned out to be one my favorite things I've cooked (at least in tinyhouse kitchen) in recent memory. Really, I shouldn't be surprised... butternut squash= delicious, risotto= delicious; it all adds up.
I based my recipe very loosely on this recipe, but not really because I used sweet onion instead of leeks, thyme instead of sage, and completely omitted the whipping cream because, c'mon people, half a cup of whipping cream? I'm all for indulgence, but please.
First I cut up the butternut squash. We've discussed before my new-found love of butternut squash, but I might not have mentioned one of the big reasons it's my new favorite: it lasts forever in the fridge. Seriously. I am a little embarrassed to admit this, but I can not remember when this particular squash was purchased. At all. It was that long ago. But, I cut the sucker open and it seemed just fine! No one has to know... shhhhh.... Butternut squash: a poor planner's best friend! Peeled and cut into small-ish cubes, drizzled with olive oil, into the oven it went, to roast until soft and slightly browned.
When the squash was almost done I started up the two other pots for the risotto (hmmm... maybe I won't be such a fan of this recipe when I venture back into the kitchen to do all the dishes BY HAND). In one, olive oil, finely chopped sweet onions and a little fresh thyme; in the other, I began heating some homemade turkey stock we made from the turkey carcass the day after Thanksgiving. Oh, did we forget to mention that? Mere hours after we finished cooking and eating our Thanksgiving FEAST, we were back in the kitchen, nibbling leftover pie and chopping the turkey carcass into pieces-- perfectly normal, right? But we had to! Michael Ruhlman said so!
Anyway, after the onions were soft and translucent, I added the arborio rice. Arborio rice has a special meaning for me. Growing up, this was one of the things that my father would NOT buy. We were a one-rice household-- short, sticky, asian rice (bought in 20 pound bags) was used for each and every purpose. Specialty rices were a silly extravagance. Can you imagine living under this totalitarian regime?? (Just kidding Dad! And everyone else out there, don't get the wrong idea about BCD Dad. He has always given us [almost] everything we ever wanted. I think it just made him insane to spend $7 on eight ounces of rice!) But now that I am on my own, I am free to spend exorbitant amounts of money on imported arborio rice. Lucky me! I think it makes a big difference; like, the difference between a bowl of perfectly tender, yet firm, individual morsels of rice suspended in creamy, flavorful, perfectly thickened liquid, and a big pot of mush.
Worth every penny
We've detailed the process of making risotto before so I won't bore you with it again. I stirred, I stirred, and I stirred, until I was rewarded with an absolutely perfect, creamy (but not mushy) risotto. All went smoothly, and really the hardest part of this dish was not eating all the delicious, roasted bits of squash sitting right there next to me as I did all that stirring!
Once all the liquid was incorporated into the rice, I added the squash pieces that had heretofore avoided my mouth, along with some Parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper. As I stirred (more stirring!) it all together, the cheese melted and the extremely soft squash sortof broke down a bit and incorporated into the rice. And all I can say is WOW! I impressed myself! I think the homemade stock really helped... I may never used canned broth again. Remind me to add a stock pot to my wishlist (oh, and an extra freezer!?).
Yeah, I garnished. You got a problem with that?
If I make this dish again, which I'd say is highly likely, I will consider the following adjustments: use leeks, as the original recipe called for, because, why not? or, cook the onions a lot longer until they are caramelized. I think that sweet, nutty flavor would compliment the roasted squash very well. Also, I will invite friends for dinner! Any takers??