Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Fall Comfort Food: Butternut Squash Risotto

A large Japanese maple tree stands on my front lawn with leaves that slowly fade from green to a beautiful bright shade of orange in the fall. Outside of my bedroom window, I can see the top just beginning to make its transformation. Every year I watch as it becomes more vivid and even more breathtaking with each day. To me, it is a picture-perfect vision of autumn. At the end of its cycle, when the entire tree is cloaked in orange, its leaves cast a fiery red glow inside of the house at sunset. Then, like clockwork about a day or so before my birthday in mid-November, the last leaf falls.

Like the leaves that are changing outside my window, butternut squash brings a similar bright orange color and comfort that is quintessential of the season. Similar to a sweet pumpkin and incredibly versatile, it is my favorite winter squash to cook with. In the past, I've made butternut squash-filled homemade tortellini and roasted curried butternut squash, but I've never used it to make risotto. So with squash being this month’s theme for the Five Star Makeover Group, I decided I would try just that.

The risotto is made in the traditional way, along with the addition of roasted butternut squash puree and diced roasted butternut squash for flavor and color. Considering the minimal ingredients and preparation, risotto really is one of the easiest dishes you could make; you just need to be prepared to stir it for about 25 minutes! All that elbow grease is important because it develops the starch in the rice and makes it nice and creamy. To make it even creamier and more delicious, the “secret” is stirring in extra grated Parmegiano Reggiano cheese and butter at the end. 

The dish is garnished with goat cheese and toasted shelled pumpkin seeds. And rolling with the theme, I served it in yet another squash—mini pumpkins! The pumpkins aren't necessary and perhaps they are even a bit confusing, but I think they are kind of fun. It’s definitely a festive-looking presentation if you’re hosting a fall dinner.

P.S. For my Long Island readers, check out this recent article I wrote about Seasons 52, the newly opened restaurant in Roosevelt Field.

Butternut Squash Risotto
Yield: 6 side dishes, 4 main
- 4 mini pumpkins (optional)
- 1 butternut squash, diced small
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 4 ¾ cups chicken broth, heated to a simmer in a medium saucepan
- 3 tablespoons butter, plus ¼ cup, diced
- 2 small shallots or 1 large, finely chopped
- 1 ½ cups Arborio rice
- ½ cup white wine
- ½ cup fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
- ¼ cup shelled pumpkin seeds, toasted
1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut off the tops of the mini pumpkins, if using, then hollow out and clean thoroughly; set aside.
2) Lay the diced butternut squash on a sheet tray and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, until evenly coated. Roast for 30 minutes, tossing at 15 minutes. Divide the roasted squash evenly in half.
3) While still warm, add half of the squash to a food processor. Add ¼ cup of the simmering chicken stock and puree until smooth; set aside.
4) Melt three tablespoons butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté until tender. Add the rice and stir to coat with the butter. Add the wine and simmer until almost completely absorbed. Add ½ cup/4-ounce ladleful of the simmering chicken broth, stirring vigorously and continuously, until all of the liquid is absorbed. Continue to add the broth in ½ cup/4-ounce ladlefuls, making sure that each addition of broth is absorbed by the rice before adding the next. Continue the process until the rice is tender and the mixture is creamy, about 25 minutes. With the final addition of broth, add the reserved squash puree.
5) Reduce the heat to low. Add the parmesan cheese, ¼ cup dice butter and salt and pepper to taste; stir until the butter is completely melted. Fold in the reserved roasted diced squash.
6) If using, fill the hollowed pumpkins with the risotto. Garnish with the crumbled goat cheese and toasted pumpkin seeds. Serve immediately.


Faith said...

This definitely does look like the perfect comfort food for fall! Such a gorgeous risotto!

Joan Nova said...

Nice post -- and I love that maple tree.

Butternut squash risotto is indeed a comforting dish -- and a tasty one too!

Joan Nova said...

Nice post -- and I love that maple tree.

Butternut squash risotto is indeed a comforting dish -- and a tasty one too!

Natasha Price said...

The butternut squash risotto sounds wonderful, very cool to serve in mini pumpkins!

Cheap Ethnic Eatz said...

Beautiful tree and a perfect dish to match. I am a big fan of risotto, this is a great one.

http://platanosmangoes.com said...

The pictures are great and the addition of the pepitas to the risotto was extra special...

Angela said...

I almost went this way. Great job and it would pair well with so many things.

Erica said...

Love the presentation !!!It looks creamy and comforting!

lostpastremembered said...

I had my first squash risotto in Italy a zillion years ago and couldn't believe how good it was. SO comforting and good. Great recipe.

Bren @ Flanboyant Eats™ said...

Lovely recipe. I love risotto and blended with squash--- even better. I remember the very 1st time I had risotto. I was in Italy and it was heavenly!

Shannon said...

that tree is gorgeous!! and i love a good, creamy risotto... the cute pumpkin package just makes it all the better ;)

Lori Lynn said...

Super-cute presentation Marisa!
The recipe sounds delicious.
Oh, your maple tree is fabulous too!

Trix said...

I love how you serve it in a little pumpkin, that is SO cute!