Risotto literally means rice, but it is so much more than that!
It’s rich, creamy, and thick–it’s flavorful and hearty.
And somehow, without a lick of heavy cream or flour to thicken it.
The thing about Risotto is, you need patience and a day where you have nothing else better to do. Save this for a romantic occasion, or maybe just a lifeless rainy day. If you don’t mind standing by the stove for an hour, then by all means, do it during the week. Just make sure you check your planner and have no other obligations for a solid 2 hours.
Why is it so delicious? It requires every bit of effort on your part. You remember how your mom told you her secret to cooking was love? Well, love requires dedication, and making any risotto is a prime example of putting one’s heart into cooking. The reason it is so thick and rich is because the process of making risotto allows for the rice’s natural properties of starch slowly releasing. That is the key to risotto; don’t rush it! The actually process of stirring isn’t difficult; it’s the patience one needs to make it.
To be honest, I didn’t want to post this recipe at first because most of you are busy and probably feel like something like a “gourmet” rice isn’t worth the effort, but believe me–it screams fall and comfort and is worth the effort! I will certainly post other risotto recipes that do not have butternut squash, but since I just made it, here’s the first of the many varieties of risotto. Here’s how to do it…
Romantic Butternut Squash Risotto
Cast of Characters:
1 small butternut squash
1 small yellow onion (optional)
6-8 cups of chicken stock
3 tablespoons of butter or extra virgin olive oil
2 cups of risotto rice (carnaroli)**DO NOT JUST USE ANY RICE!
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 bunch of chopped parsley
1.) Cut the stem end of the squash with a really well sharpened, serrated knife.
2.) After cutting the stem, use a vegetable peeler (or a good knife–just don’t cut yourself) and remove the skin.
3.) After removing the skin, slice the butternut squash lengthwise. **WARNING–THE SQUASH IS TOUGH TO CUT! BE CAREFUL!**
4.) Scoop out the seeds and pulp.
If you’re not really into butternut squash like I am, you can use only half and get a result like this…
But if you want the rich blend of butternut squash as opposed to peppered chucks, dice up both halves. Dice the desired amount of squash into 1/2 inch cubes. **During this time, you should also dice up the onion, if desired. I made it once without the onion and it tasted fine, but I think squash and sauteed onions go so well! Throw garlic if you have it–why not?
6.) After dicing, pour your 6-8 cups (I say make 8–it’s better to have more in case it thickens too quickly) of chicken stock into a sauce pan and keep to a simmer at a medium heat. Be careful not to have it too hot–it will evaporate into nothing!
7.) While the stock is heating up, fry your onions in the three tablespoons of butter or olive oil on medium high heat. In about three minutes, throw a 1/8th of a cup of water to make the onions smelt into a caramelized, yummy state. Stir occasionally to ensure even cooking.
8.) When the onion is well caramelized, throw in the diced butternut squash and spread out evenly. Feel free to throw more olive oil and butter–why not? Stir occasionally until golden brown.
9.) In about 5-8 minutes, throw another 1/4 cup of water and watch the butternut squash sizzle in glory…mmm! The squash should be tender in about 10-15 minutes.
10.) As you are tossing occasionally, use a potato masher or the side of a wooden spoon to mash up the butternut squash. Leave it in whole chunks if you only used half, or if you used the full squash, mush it to a paste.
11.) Once your squash is mushed up and tender, it’s time for the pain in the butt part–the risotto. At this point, you stir in your two cups of risotto and crack your pepper and throw down your salt (DO NOT COOK THE RISOTTO PREVIOUSLY–IT WILL COOK IN HERE!)
Okay I am going to stop with the numbers for a second–READ carefully and EXECUTE patiently…
You are only allowed to add one to two ladles of stock at a time. If you pour too much at once, you will stop the cooking and have undercooked rice and mucky soup. Gross.
Stir the rice consistently and slowly pour in one to two ladles of stock at a time. I say add every 30 seconds roughly–you will get a knack for it. Once you see the rice is absorbing the liquid, slowly add more and stir. Don’t walk away. Don’t call your friends. You are a slave to the stove for another half hour or so, sorry.
12.) About halfway through, add some more crackin’ pepper and slammin’ salt. Keep stirring–you can do it, tiger! At this point, you have about another 15-20 minutes, sorry boss. Stir and ladle, stir and ladle. You’ll see progress, though. It’s looking so rich and decadent–you just can’t wait, but you absolutely have to!
Tip: Make sure your pan is wide and that you are spreading out the rice so there’s one even layer; otherwise, you will have some al dente pieces, some overcooked, and some mush. Don’t be lazy! Do it right!
13.) In about 15 minutes, taste for doneness. It should be al-dente, or “to the tooth.” Not hard, not soft–just right.
Tip: You know it’s done when you can drag a wooden spoon and there’s a line made in the pan.
Once you are done, add some more salt and pepper. The chicken stock should provide plenty of flavor, but depending on your stock, you’ll probably need a tad more. Mix in your Parmesan cheese…mmm. It’s going to be gooey and awesome. Then chop up some fresh parsley. My recommendation? Just peel off the tops because the stems can be bitter. Peel off the tops and do a rough chop, and bam (sorry Emeril)! You are finished. Phew.
Go get ’em tiger.