A mistake has been made. Risotto is not difficult. When I ask people about risotto the first thing they all most always say is “I love risotto!”. When I ask them if they’ve made it I’ve gotten an almost angry “What? Are you kidding?” to a furtive side-eyed, foot shuffling “Well, no.” The consensus is that it’s too difficult to make at home, they don’t have the cooking skills for that dish, it should be enjoyed in a restaurant on special occasions. Bah! Not true. If you can stir a pot and pay attention for a few minutes at a time you can make risotto. You should be making risotto. All kinds of it. It is such a comfort food, right up there with mashed potatoes and chocolate milk. (Seriously, every couple of years don’t you just have to buy one of the little containers with the brown cows on it, shake it up, and chug it?) There is no secret handshake, no closely guarded ancient recipe. Buy the right rice, keep your heat at a slow simmer, and stir often. And yes, before you ask, this is another sq _ _ h recipe. It will be refered to only as butternut (code name: The Big B) so as not to incite a “Not another sq _ _h recipe! Let’s get her!” riot. We won’t say the “S” word, and Big B is in the house.
I would use an arborio or carnaroli variety of rice. It doesn’t matter what brand, but I would stick with those types. They have a higher starch content than other rice, which is released when you cook it. Stirring, the dreaded stirring is what makes the starch combine with other ingredients to make that wonderful creamy texture. Never, ever rinse or wash the rice before cooking. And please, make sure to toast it in the oil or butter that you’re using before you start adding your liquid. The stirring? You don’t have to stir every minute, but very often. You’re making the rice absorb the cooking liquid and as it does it will get thick and might stick to the bottom of the pan. You really don’t want that. So check and stir often. As for the type of risotto you make, dream big! What you choose to put in it is entirely your call. What do you like the best? What do you have in the fridge? Do those things sound good together? Go for it.
Most risotto are great the next day in a variety of ways. This one is best (I think) right off the stove. There’s no cream in it, but it has cheese and it’s very rich. You want to close your eyes, and let it melt in your mouth. The Big B never had it so good. Without further ado…..
1 butternut sq _ _ _h (2 pounds)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 cups chicken stock
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup minced shallots (2 large)
1 1/2 cups Arborio or Carnaroli rice
1/4 cup of sherry or 1/2 cup white wine
6 large fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Peel the butternut sq _ _ _ h, remove the seeds, and cut it into 3/4-inch cubes. Place the sq _ _ _h on a sheet pan and toss it with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, until very tender. Set aside.
Heat the chicken stock in a small saucepan. Keep it warm until you’ve used it all.
In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the shallots on medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until the shallots are translucent but not browned. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains with butter and cook for a minute, giving the rice a nice toast. Add the sherry and cook for 2 minutes. Add 2 cups of stock to the rice with 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir, and simmer until the stock is absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes. It will look like this when it’s reducing:
Continue to add the stock, 2 cups at a time, stirring every few minutes. Each time, cook until the mixture seems very thick and almost dry, then add more stock. Continue until the rice is cooked through, but still al dente, about 30 minutes total. Off the heat, add the roasted sq _ _ h cubes, sage and Parmesan. Mix well and serve.
Using this basic method, any kind of risotto is yours for making. Can’t wait to hear what you’ve come up with!