Question: What on Earth could make a boy this smiley?
(Ironic shirt for someone who claims he’s not a runner, huh? It was free.)
Answer: Two things.
1) Actually saying “cheese” while the photo is being taken. I haven’t done this since I was six years old, but now I know why they say to say it.
2) Butternut squash risotto.
I used to be a big Spring fan, but since I’ve been a “grown up,” I find myself really enjoying the fall. I think a lot of it has to do with cooking; I find autumn foods to be the most comforting of any. So when Erin and I saw butternut squash at the farmers market for the first time this season, we were left powerless against the pull of the magnet that is butternut squash risotto.
A tidbit of wiki-knowledge: butternut squash is considered a winter squash but is actually grown in the summer like zucchini and yellow squash. The difference is that winter squash is not harvested until fall or winter, after the rind is hardened and the seeds are mature. If that fun fact doesn’t earn you some major street-cred at the next cocktail party, I don’t know what will.
This risotto recipe is adapted from The Greatest Dishes (affiliate link), the place I turn whenever I want to swindle people into thinking I’m a real cook. (Maybe I should I write a post called “I Am Not (Really) a Cook”?) Since the arborio rice is refined, this risotto isn’t really the healthiest of foods for training. But there’s nothing wrong with changing it up a little now and then, and I could think of far more life-shortening ways to do it than this.
Same deal as any risotto here: don’t stir the whole time or it will turn out like mashed potatoes. Use the very best imported arborio you can find. Seriously, if you’re not willing to do this, buy a damn Hungry Man and eat that instead. You need nice plump grains of rice to release all that creamy goodness. And of course, serve it right away before it seizes up—risotto waits for no one!
Butternut Squash Risotto Recipe
Ingredients (for 4 servings):
- 1 1/2 cups imported arborio rice
- 1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1 onion, diced small
- 4 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 3 Tbsp olive or canola oil
- vanilla extract
- fresh nutmeg (seriously, don’t use ground)
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 5 cups vegetable broth
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
- salt and pepper
Heat 1 Tbsp each of butter and oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat, then add the onion. Let it soften, then add the butternut squash and stir for a few minutes to coat in oil and butter. Add a few drops of vanilla extract (don’t go crazy with it) and grate some nutmeg in. I like a lot of nutmeg, maybe a half teaspoon. Add half the wine and 1/2 cup of vegetable stock, cover, and let it simmer for 15-20 minutes. As soon as the squash is tender, take it off the heat. Do not let the squash get too soft!
Meanwhile, heat the remaining vegetable stock in its own small pot over medium low heat, then keep at a simmer. Once the squash is tender, heat the rest of the oil (2 Tbsp) and 1 Tbsp butter over medium heat in a Dutch oven or large saucepan. Add the rice and stir it constantly until it begins to quietly squeek or whistle, about 5 minutes for me. At this point, add the rest of the white wine to the rice and stir until the pan is almost dry, then add a cup of vegetable stock. Stir until it’s absorbed (you should be able to see the bottom of the pan for a few seconds when you run your spoon through it), then add the squash mixture.
Stir for another minute, add 3/4 cup of stock, and stir for 30 seconds. Then stop stirring, except to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Once the stock is absorbed, add 3/4 cup stock again. Keep repeating this process until the rice is just al dente, but not at all grainy in the center. You should use up just about all of the stock.
Season to taste with salt and pepper, add the parmesan cheese and the remaining 2 Tbsp butter. Give it a good stir, then serve immediately. You’re looking for a consistency between mashed potatoes and soup. Stir more to thicken or add more liquid to loosen, as needed.
Serve with fresh ground black pepper, fresh grated nutmeg, and additional cheese if desired.