After tasting butternut squash risotto in a restaurant long ago, I have always wanted to re-create it at home. Well now, I can finally successfully cross it off my bucket list, thanks to America's Test Kitchen, my Famous Fridays honoree this week!
If you're not familiar with America's Test Kitchen and you like to cook (which I'm assuming you do, or you wouldn't be reading this now) you should really pick up one (or several) of their cookbooks, take a look at them online or better yet, watch their cooking show on PBS, hosted by Christopher Kimball, Cook's Illustrated's editor-in-chief (you can also watch episodes online). However you get acquainted, the really cool thing that ATK does, is to scientifically explain why some ingredients/techniques work better than others--they literally "test" out the recipe several times and then show how to make it the "right" way. It's so interesting and you learn so much. Plus, because they are so thorough with their analyses of recipes, you can always count on them to come out just right. They also rate kitchen equipment and new ingredients. Check their reviews if you have to make any purchases--I promise, they will not let you down! Can you tell how much I love these guys?!!
It's big week for butternut squash on the blog. After my earlier posting of Maple Squash Puree, one might surmise that I'm a little bit obsessed, and one might be right! Besides being so tasty, it's just such a versatile, pretty and good for you veggie. And in this recipe, it combines perfectly with the creaminess of the risotto and the parmesan cheese. It's truly a treat!
This is probably not a dish you should try on a busy weeknight, because there are quite a few steps, but none of them are difficult. And you really can't buy the pre-cut variety 'cause you add the squash fibers and seeds that you generally throw away to the chicken broth to infuse more squash flavor to the dish, which means that you have to buy a whole squash and cut it up the old-fashioned way. You start by sauteing it in some oil--
When the squash is tender, you transfer it to a large bowl and then cook the fibers and seeds and add them to the chicken broth. This is the technique that ATK highly recommends, explaining that you elevate the dish to new heights by doing so, because you're infusing the broth with pure butternut squash flavor. It's pretty easy and only takes an extra 7-8 minutes. Once done, you start cooking the rice with the onion, garlic and spices-
Then you start the process of adding the wine, strained broth and squash back in. This takes a while and your pan will be very full. You just have to patient and keep stirring, giving the rice time to absorb the liquids.
Eventually, everything dries out, like this--
Then you add in a little butter, parmesan cheese, spices (if you like) and the rest of the squash--
And finally, you are rewarded with a restaurant-quality plate of perfectly cooked risotto chock full of meltingly delicious squash all coated with a light parmesan cheese/wine sauce that would easily win any taste test in any kitchen!
ATK's Butternut Squash Risotto-Famous Fridays
Serves 4-6 as a main course
Prep Time: 20 minutes; Cook Time: About 1 hour
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium butternut squash (about 2 pounds), peeled, seeded (keep fibers and seeds) and cut squash into 1/2 cubes
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth (you could use vegetable broth to make this vegetarian)
- 1 cup water
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 medium onion, chopped very fine
- 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
- 2 cups Arborio rice
- 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
- 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh sage leaves (I didn't use)
- 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg (I didn't use)
1. Using a 12-inch nonstick pan, heat the oil over medium heat for a minute or two and then add the squash in an even layer. Cook without stirring for about 5 minutes until golden brown on the bottom and then add 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Now continue to cook, stirring every now and then until the squash is tender for another 5-10 minutes. You should be able to stick a fork through it easily. Transfer it to a bowl and set aside.
2. Using the same pan, add the squash fibers and seeds and cook over medium heat, stirring often for about 5 minutes, until lightly browned. Transfer to a large pot, add the chicken broth and water, cover and bring to a simmer over high heat. Then turn the heat down to medium-low so that it barely simmers.
3. Again, using the same pan, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat and when the foaming subsides, add the onion, garlic, and the rest of the salt and pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes or so until the onions are softened. Add the rice and stir often, (pushing the rice toward the center so that it doesn't spill over the edges) until the grains looks translucent around the edges, about 3 minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring regularly, for about 5 minutes or until the liquid is totally absorbed. Then strain the hot broth through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl, pressing on the solids, to extract as much liquid as possible. Return the broth to the pot and cover it, keeping the heat low so that it stays hot.
4. Add three cups of the hot broth (use a ladle, it makes it easier) and half of the squash to the rice. Simmer it, stirring every few minutes, until all the liquid is absorbed and the bottom of the pan is almost dry. This takes about 12-15 minutes.
5. When dry, stir in about 1/2 cup of the broth and cook for about 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly, until all the broth is absorbed. Repeat the process a few more times with more broth, stirring and allowing the broth to be absorbed until the rice is al dente. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining butter, the Parmesan, and the sage and nutmeg (if using). Then fold in the rest of the squash and serve.
6. Risotto is best on the day it's made, but it reheats well in the microwave and keeps for 4-5 days.
Note: Recipe slightly adapted from Cooking At Home With America's Test Kitchen, 2006