Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto with Mushrooms and Spinach

Do you have a trademark dish? In other words, a dish you know you’re good at and could make anytime, anywhere, probably without a recipe? I’m willing to bet anyone who likes to cook has at least one dish like this. Risotto is one of mine. The funny thing is, I recently realized that I only have one risotto dish on this blog. And I’ve never even shared one of my very favorite risotto recipes. Sorry about that.

I don’t remember the first risotto I made. I may have still been in high school because I think that’s when my mom starting making risotto. She would make it with sautéed chicken breast and vegetables, but she had to keep all the veggies separate from the rice. Although my sister loved risotto--and she didn’t really have anything against vegetables--she liked her chicken risotto plain. I can picture her spreading it to the edges of her plate so it would cool faster--a delicious, colorless meal.

I’m not a big fan of white rice, except for sushi, or with Indian food…okay maybe I do like white rice. But for me, risotto is in a whole different category. It is so creamy, yet toothsome, and satisfies your belly like regular steamed rice does not. I love this recipe because all the components are favorites of mine, especially the butternut squash. It requires roasting to caramelize it and bring out the sweetness, so this is a great cool weather risotto. No meat here, but it still makes a hearty main dish.

In my previous post for Fava Bean Risotto with Pancetta, I included some step-by-step photos if you’re a risotto newbie. Finally I’ll echo what Nigella Lawson writes in How to Eat, her first cookbook that I was skimming through last night. Risotto is not difficult. It’s actually quite forgiving unless you totally abandon it for extended minutes to risk scorched rice. Think of the stirring as a relaxing, meditative activity, and this could become one of your favorite meals to prepare too. I’ve included tips and detailed instructions in the recipe, so I won’t go on.

So, what are your trademark dishes? Let’s discuss in the comments.

Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto with Mushrooms

I like to use Arborio rice from Italy for risotto. I’ve tried domestic brands of risotto rice, but they never seem as creamy as the Italian brands. This is a fairly light risotto--you'll see recipe that have you finish the rice with butter or cream or more cheese, but I don't find it necessary. You can make this vegetarian by replacing the chicken broth with vegetable broth. If your grocery store sells peeled and chopped butternut squash, it might be worth the extra cost. It’s a bit of a hassle to peel yourself, so if your husband is sick of doing it for you this is a great option.

3 cups butternut squash, peeled and cut into half-inch pieces
2 1/2 tbs. olive oil, divided
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 tsp. dried thyme or rosemary
1 lb. Portobello mushrooms, sliced and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 tbs. unsalted butter, divided
1 large shallot, chopped (or 1 small onion)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/4 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
6 to 8 oz. spinach leaves
Fresh thyme leaves and/or chopped parsley (optional)
Parmigiano-Reggiano, for serving

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and coat with cooking spray. On the baking sheet, toss the butternut squash with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper and dried thyme. Roast until tender and lightly browned, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat 1/2 tbs. olive oil and 1/2 tbs. butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and cook until their water nearly evaporates, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking until tender, about 3 more minutes. Set aside.

Heat the chicken broth (it does not have to boil) in a medium saucepan and keep warm over low heat.

In a large saucepan or soup pot, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1/2 tablespoon of butter over medium-low heat. Add the shallot and cook until soft but not browned. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Add the rice and stir constantly for 2 to 3 minutes until all the grains are slick and slightly opaque. Add the wine and simmer until almost completely absorbed.

Add two ladles full of broth to the risotto and bring to a simmer. Season with a bit of salt and pepper. Keep the risotto at a steady simmer, stirring continuously until the broth has evaporated almost completely. Add one ladle full of broth, stir until it is nearly evaporated, then add another ladle full. Continue simmering and stirring, adding broth as necessary, for about 22-24 minutes or until the rice is creamy and cooked through, but still firm to the bite. When the risotto is on its last ladle full of broth, add the spinach (I try to use as much as I can fit, but use the amount that looks right to you, remembering that the volume reduces considerably.). Stir until spinach is just wilted. Add the roasted squash and portobellos. Add the fresh herbs if using. Serve immediately, passing Parmigiano-Reggiano at the table. Check the seasoning and add more salt and pepper to taste.

You may not use all the broth. If you run out of broth, just use hot water to finish the risotto. It’s not absolutely necessary to stir for 22 minutes straight, but you don’t want to put down your spoon for too long or leave the risotto unattended and risk scorching.

Here are some more creative risottos from food blogs I read:

1) Meyer Lemon Risotto made with barley from 101 Cookbooks--I've been wanting to try risotto with different grains--love this!

2) Tomato Risotto with Fennel Seeds from Lucullian Delights--the fennel seeds made this simple dish so interesting.

3) Risotto with Beets from La Tartine Gourmande - Stunning--just look! And what an appealing mix of flavor and texture.

4) Gorgonzola, Rocket and Pear Risotto from The Passionate Cook - I love blue cheese with pears and we are crazy about rocket (or arugula if you don't live across the pond). Also check out the link's to Johanna's other seasonal risotto dishes, including one with chestnuts!


Lydia said...

There must be something in the air -- I posted my recipe for risotto alla Milanese yesterday! There are two dishes that I think I'm "famous" for, my never-fail dishes, and both are rice based. One is mushroom risotto, made with fresh and dried mushrooms; the other is jambalaya.

Emiline said...

I love a good risotto. You sound like you really know your stuff! I've made it, maybe 5 times. I can't remember.
Anyway, this sounds delicious! If only we had the prepped butternut squash. I would eat butternut squash all of the time!

What's a dish that I'm known for? Well, I've made a lot of brownies, cheesecakes, and crostini, in the past. It's so hard to narrow it down.

Julie said...

Lydia: This does seem like the right time of year to make risotto--not that there's a wrong time! Jambalaya--yum! I've made it once, and it's time I do it again...I'm betting the recipe's on your blog.
Emiline: Yes, butternut squash just rocks. Honestly, we don't buy the prepped type that often, we just suck it up and peel them--it's worth it. So you're known for sweets, but also! I admire cheesecake bakers--it's one of the desserts that doesn't appeal to me. I just don't love them enough to deal with the baking of them. I do love to make crostini...are there any recipes on your blog?

Kristen said...

Oh delicious. This looks so delicious!
I'm famous for more my dessert type food than anything... cinnaomon rolls and bread, to name a few!

Julie said...

Kristen: it's definitely good to have trademark desserts. And cinnamon rolls--it's not people are running around making fresh cinnamon rolls all the time, so that's an awesome dish to make for people.

Sophie said...

The risotto looks fabulous Julie

I don't think I have a trademark dish but I do have a butternut squash risotto which is baked in the oven - good for those days when you can't be bothered to do these things properly!

Erin said...

I really enjoy making risotto. Although sometimes I stand over the stove stirring away with a book in one hand. It's not exactly the most entertaining process, but the results are what matters. This recipe looks great! Butternut squash, mushrooms, and spinach are some of my absolute favorite veggies.

Michele said...

Julie, thank you so much for this delicious recipe! We are pleased to have it included in this week's FoodieView Recipe Roundup!!!

Anonymous said...

thank you so much, i have butternut squash in the garden & this is just what i was looking for (minus the mushrooms).

didn't seem to take that long to prep the squash.

Ilan @ said...

This looks really good.
Gonna be making it soon.

WackyMartian said...

How many servings is your recipe for? :)