Thursday, February 21, 2013

Creamy Dreamy Risotto

Once the roast was safely in the oven, I began working on the risotto.

To be sure you know what you'll need to prepare this divine dish, here are the ingredients to complete the 2nd String Players roster.

Butternut Squash Risotto
 (In my humble opinion, this was by far the "star" of the meal, but, by definition it is a "side dish" so it is relegated to 2nd string status)

What you need to get started:

1/2 whole butternut squash (I used the whole thing) - peeled, seeded, and diced
3 Tbs butter
1Tbs Olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt
black pepper to taste
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/2 onion - diced
1 1/2 C arborio rice
6 Cups Vegetable or chicken broth (I used a combination b/c I needed 1 container of veg broth for soup on Wed)
1/8 tsp tumeric
1/4 C Heavy Cream (this says optional, but I would NOT leave this out)
1/2 C parmeson cheese shavings or shredded
parsley (I didn't have fresh, so I just used dried)

First things first. I had to cook the butternut squash.  That crazy little gourd that kept finding it's way into my grocery cart.

Although not a difficult task, it was made more complicated by the fact my good chef knives are packed and stored somewhere in Illinois and due to the fact I only have a small potato peeler to peel said squash.  

(Remedied - I found a bigger vegetable peeler at SafeWay while in town yesterday.)

I began.  First, I chopped the top and bottom off the squash; commenced removing the peel from the gourd; cut it in half - top to bottom; Cut it in half again - length wise; Scooped out the seeds; Finally cut the halves into strips and diced them.  

Upon completing this task, I put 1 Tbls of butter and olive oil in a large skillet to melt.  Added the squash and sprinkled it with salt, pepper, and a bit of chili powder.

The squash beginning to cook on the stove
This is where I always err on timing. The recipe said "cook for  several minutes until squash is deep golden brown, but not falling apart".  I did that - but mine was still quite firm.  I kept cooking and turning until it was soft and my fork inserted into the pieces slid in smoothly.  It took a good 1/2 hour. That is NOT several minutes in my book.

This portion FINALLY done, I transferred the squash to a plate. Isn't it pretty?

The cooked squash, awaiting it's final destination

While this was in process, I added the broth to a pan and began heating it up.  Keeping it warm  until it was needed.

Next I added the remaining 2 TBS of butter to the same skillet - melting it over med-low heat.  Once melted I added the onions. Cooking 2-3 minutes until translucent.  At this point, I added the Arborio rice and cooked it in JUST the butter and onion for 1 minute.

The risotto cooking in the butter and onion alone.
Can you believe this is the last picture I took of this wonderful dish?
We were so hungry, we ate it all up BEFORE my mind thought to snap a
pic of the luscious goodness.

Here's where I tried to follow the recipe but ended up needing to turn the heat from low to slightly hotter than medium in order to get my risotto to cook through.  I added 1 cup at a time of the warmed broth.  Stirring it in to the rice, allowing the broth to be absorbed before adding yet another cup of broth.  

I continued this process until approximately 5-6 cups of broth were integrated.  This is key to making creamy, not sticky risotto.  Add a cup to a cup and a half of liquid and stir till the rice absorbs it. Add more and continue - over and over again, until the rice is tender with just a hint of bite left to it.  If you add too much too fast and don't stir it regularly, your rice will... get... sticky... and... clumpy!  Not quite the creamy dreaminess it SHOULD be.

This is what takes so long in making risotto, but it's SOOOO worth it.  Oh yeah, while doing this, add a bit of salt and pepper to give balanced flavor to your finished product.

Once I was happy w/the tenderness of the rice, I added the cooked squash and the turmeric, stirring to combine.  

Remember I mentioned my squash was still a bit firm? Well, this is the part where I discovered I probably should have cooked it even longer.  I didn't think the large chunks of butternut squash equated to creamy dreaminess.

I improvised. Grabbing my masher, I began pressing the squash into the pan to give it a smoother texture.  This seemed to do the trick.  

Still a little chunky, but in a smooth way, I added the heavy cream and parmesan cheese, stirring gently just until is was nicely combined.

Finally I dashed in dried parsley until I saw specks of green throughout the dish.

My first bite - heavenly.  My second - the same.  I will admit, I think I had 3 helpings of this savory, satisfying, superb, squash.  Not to tell tales, but I believe most everyone had seconds or thirds of this new favorite side.  No left overs on this one - much to my sadness.

Next up is the 3rd string players - Lemon Parmesan Broccoli.  Check back tomorrow to discover how to make this simple, yet tasty vegetable.  It makes my usual steamed frozen broccoli look pitiful.

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