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!