Friday, December 10, 2010
Butternut Squash Risotto
I teach monthly cooking classes for clients at work. Many are kitchen neophytes so my lessons tend to cover the basics and include straightforward recipes that require minimal effort. Last week, in a holiday-themed class, we discussed how to handle a butternut squash (peeling, cutting, cleaning and roasting) and since I had a demo squash left over, I was determined to make dinner out of it.
I wanted a dish where the squash would remain king, and then I remembered Ina Garten's Saffron Butternut Squash Risotto (yet another episode I saw at the gym while planning dinner on the treadmill). In all honestly, I'm not what you would consider a winter squash aficionado. I cook it and I eat it but it doesn't have a spot on my favorite foods list... at least not until it's paired with gnocchi, ravioli or a creamy risotto.
This particular risotto managed to knock my socks off. It balances the sweet, savory and creamy components perfectly, and with seared scallops on top, it may actually qualify as one of my favorite meals.
Butternut Squash Risotto
While this risotto is a meal in itself, I highly recommend topping each serving with a few seared scallops. The two flavors and textures are a match made in heaven. Adapted from an Ina Garten recipe.
1 medium butternut squash (about 2 pounds)
Freshly ground black pepper
3 ounces pancetta, finely diced
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1 large shallot, minced
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
4-6 cups chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Peel the squash, halve lengthwise, remove the seeds with a spoon and cut it into 3/4-inch cubes (about 6 cups). Place the diced squash on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and drizzle with olive oil (about 2 tablespoons), a few good pinches of kosher salt and some black pepper. Toss well and spread in a single layer. Transfer to the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, tossing once, until the squash is very tender. Remove and set aside.
Meanwhile, heat the chicken broth in a small saucepan. Cover and keep hot over low heat.
In a large pot, heat the pancetta over medium-low heat for about 8 minutes or until most of the fat has rendered and the pancetta is beginning to crisp. Add 1 tablespoon of butter and the shallots; cook for 5 more minutes or until the shallots are translucent. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains with butter. Pour in the wine and cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid is absorbed, about 4 minutes. Add two ladles of stock, the saffron, 1/2 a teaspoon of salt and a few good grinds of black pepper. Simmer, stirring frequently, until the broth is absorbed, about 6 minutes. Continue adding stock, two ladles at a time, stirring frequently, waiting each time for the liquid to be absorbed before adding more. Continue this process until the rice is cooked through but still a touch al dente, about 30 minutes. Add the butternut squash, Parmesan and a splash more stock, if needed. Toss in the remaining tablespoon of butter, stir well and taste for seasoning. Serve immediately.