Thursday, October 9, 2008
Barefoot Bloggers: Butternut Squash Risotto
I had mixed feelings about this month's selections for the Barefoot Bloggers. The first of two selections is Ina Garten's Butternut Squash Risotto as chosen by Rachel of Rachel Likes to Cook, from the Barefoot Contessa Family Style cookbook.
Oh, I was quite certain the risotto would be delicious, and I love, love, love squash. It's hearty fare, perfect for Autumn, but it's still rather warm here in Northern California, I've been working my butt off at the office, I'm cranky and tired, and I admit it ... the few times I've had risotto, I truly never understood what all the fuss was about. A fancier rice pilaf! I knew, however, I wasn't having it served under ideal conditions. The first time I had it, it was from a mix. From Target, no less. The second time I had it, it was from Whole Foods' hot dinner case, and it was hard and dry. The third time I had it, it was "to go" from a nice restaurant. It's not the kind of thing that travels well and it was just thick, heavy rice pudding when we got it home.
Honestly though, the primary reason for my reticence was simply that I've never made risotto from scratch and the thought of it intimidated me. Still, that's what these blogging groups are all about, creating dishes out of our comfort zone, with the ideas from and support of my fellow bloggers.
Having now completed the task, and I made it as close to the recipe as I possibly could, with no shortcuts other than scaling it down by half for me (with guaranteed leftovers), I can say the following:
Yes, it was a bit time consuming.
Yes, it was a bit rich and fattening.
Yes, it was worth it.
Yes, it was easier than I thought.
Yes, I will make it again. For sure.
Yes, it was Fan. Flipping. Tastic.
Rachel, I bow in your general direction, congratulate you on your guts, and blame you for the carb-fat I'm going to be gaining this coming winter.
On with the picture show, my friends.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH RISOTTO, ADAPTED FOR ONE PERSON
Assembling everything in advance (a rarety for me, but I can't afford to screw this up -- I already got the wrong kind of pancetta, so I added a bit of crumbled bacon I had on hand to make up for it). Left to right, parmesan cheese, butter, bacon, rice, shallots, saffron, and pancetta (it's actually a close cousin, but we're calling it pancetta for simplicity's sake)
Roast the diced cubes of fresh butternut squash in olive oil, salt, and pepper, until tender.
Note: I wish I had not added the salt and pepper at the various stages called for. Pancetta, butter, bacon, parmesan cheese -- these are all salty items and I should have waited until the recipe was done, and salted to taste. It was a bit heavy on the salt, but still delicious.
Simmer my homemade chicken stock, which is probably the most profound change in my cooking to occur this year -- I made a pot of fresh stock from a rotisserie chicken, froze it in baggies, and finally understood why all chefs tell you to make your own stock. BECAUSE YOU NEED TO. YOU REALLY, REALLY NEED TO. I can say that barring a crisis requiring canned goods, I'll never go back to store-bought stock.
Simmer the pancetta, shallots and bacon in the butter, until soft, but not browned.
Add the rice and stir to coat the rice in the melted butter.
Add a splash of white wine now, and simmer the rice in the buttery wine.
Add the saffron threads and more salt and pepper. See note above -- I wouldn't add the salt and pepper next time. Trader Joe's, I curse you for having such a crappy spice selection, but, for those few spices you DO have, I thank you for making them so affordable.
Adding the ladle of chicken broth. Ladle, ladle, ladle. Stir, stir, stir. Look at all those pretty ingredients. Rice, shallots, saffron ... coming together nicely.
After lading broth and cooking in installments with continual stirring, it thickened up nicely, was velvety, and, ready to take the cubed, cooked squash, parmesan cheese, both added off the heat. Look how messy my pot is. My stove was worse.
Hello, you beautiful, fattening, sexy beast. You don't come here often, do you?
About this challenge: The Barefoot Bloggers join forces and cook or bake recipes by Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten each month, chosen in order by members, and present them for discussion on two Thursdays each month. Hungry? Please join us at the table!