5 weeks ago
Thursday, October 9, 2008
This week's Barefoot Bloggers challenge comes from Rachel of Rachel Likes to Cook. Rachel, if I knew where you lived, I'd walk over and hug you right now for picking this. Yes, this risotto brings out the crazy stalker in me. It is absolutely one of my all-time favorite dishes ever.
And let me tell you, the risotto and I really bonded over the course of the week. For a variety of reasons, it took me about 5 days to finally complete this, so thinking about, nurturing, and tending to butternut squash risotto became as natural to me as breathing by the time we finally ate it. It really became kind of like my fourth child. On Friday, I did my shopping for this; not a long ingredient list at all, but I don't usually keep pancetta or saffron threads on hand. On Saturday, I made the stock, which I planned to use for making the risotto on Sunday. On Sunday, I started out on track by roasting the butternut squash in the afternoon:
But then my husband and son did not get back from their Cub Scouts meeting until close to 7:30, and with having to get the kids bathed, read to and in bed at a reasonable hour, it just did not seem to be the right time to be diving into risotto. Then on Monday night my son had soccer practice until after 7, so again it was no go on the risotto. You know, I definitely subscribe to the "let kids be kids and don't overschedule them" philosophy. My son, who is six, plays just one sport and does Cub Scouts, which on paper did not seem like it would be too much. And yet between practices, games, meetings, camping trips, and other special events, these two activities can easily take up 5 nights a week! He's six! I just don't know what we'll do when the younger ones start getting into activities, or the activities start getting more involved than they already are. Hmmm. Wait, what were we talking about again? Oh yeah, risotto!
Fortunately, the planets all aligned on Tuesday, a mere five days after I began the process, and I was finally able to make this. The recipe starts out by telling us to sautee the shallots and pancetta in 3/4 of a stick of butter. I used about half the butter that Ina calls for, and it didn't seem to be missing a thing. In fact, next time I'll cut the butter down to just a tablespoon or so. Don't tell Ina.
Being risotto, it required a lot of standing, a lot of watching, and a lot of slowly adding liquid to the pan. What it did not seem to require was constant stirring, and for that, I was grateful. You just add some stock, give it a stir once in a while, and add more stock when the last stock addition is mostly absorbed. The saffron turned it a pleasant yellow color:
At the end, once it's off the heat, you add in the butternut squash and the parmesan. And then the angels start singing. Yes, this is THAT GOOD. I figured that it would be good -- risotto usually is, but I was not expecting to be completely blown away by this the way that I was. The butternut squash adds a mild sweet flavor to what is otherwise a savory dish. The combination is just fabulous. Hubs enjoyed it as well. My two older kids, the ones who subsist on nothing but air and Flinstones, would not touch it, which was a shame because I knew that they would like it if they would just try it. My one year old, who will knock people over to get to a half smushed banana on the floor, devoured it in record time, as I knew that she would.
I can't wait to make this again. Thank you, Rachel!
BUTTERNUT SQUASH RISOTTO
1 butternut squash (2 pounds)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
2 ounces pancetta, diced
1/2 cup minced shallots (2 large)
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice (10 ounces)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon saffron threads
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Peel the butternut squash, remove the seeds, and cut it into 3/4-inch cubes. You should have about 6 cups. Place the squash 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, tossing once, until very tender. Set aside.
Meanwhile, heat the chicken stock in a small covered saucepan. Leave it on low heat to simmer.
In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the pancetta and 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. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add 2 full ladles of stock to the rice plus the saffron, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir, and simmer until the stock is absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes. Continue to add the stock, 2 ladles at a time, stirring every few minutes. Each time, cook until the mixture seems a little 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 squash cubes and Parmesan. Mix well and serve.