Holy cow, I may have found a new comfort food. The fates magically aligned for me last night. I mentioned before that I’ve been trying to create a menu for the entire week and post it on the fridge. Last night I felt awful because of this nasty cold I have and, had we not run out of our blasted kitty money, we definitely would have ordered take-out. Instead, I resignedly took a look at the menu on the fridge and started cooking.
I used to make risotto pretty often before we had Charlie. But cooking risotto takes about a half hour of near constant supervision which is difficult when you live with a whirling dervish. However, the other day I was thinking about recipes I could make using vegetables currently in season and I thought of butternut squash and how creamy it gets when cooked and how that creaminess would taste perfectly wonderful in risotto. After several tours of butternut squash risotto recipes on the Internet, I settled on the following recipe, modified of course because that’s just what I usually do. So, last night I turned on Max & Ruby, Charlie’s absolute favorite show, and knew I had about 30 minutes of uninterrupted cooking time.
Butternut Squash Risotto
Adapted from Ina Garten’s recipe posted here. Yield: about 5 servings
1 butternut squash
2 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
5 cups chicken stock (or broth, if that’s what you have)
4 Tbsp butter
1 large shallot, finely diced
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1 1/2 tsp finely chopped fresh sage (or more if you really like sage)
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Pierce the skin of the butternut squash several times with a fork and microwave on high 1 minute (this just makes it easier to cut). Cut the squash in half lengthwise, peel, remove the seeds, and cut into 3/4-inch pieces. Toss the squash in olive oil with salt and pepper and roast in a shallow pan for 25-30 minutes until tender (turn over halfway through cooking). Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Leave as is to add to the risotto, or if you’d like a creamier texture to the risotto, mash the squash cubes around a little bit to get them sort of the consistency of very lumpy mashed potatoes.
While the squash roasts, heat the chicken stock in a small saucepan. Leave it to gently simmer.
In a large skillet or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the shallots on medium-low heat for 5 minutes, until the shallots are translucent. Add the rice, stir to coat, and toast until the rice turns just slightly golden brown. Add 2 full ladles of stock to the rice plus a little salt and pepper. Stir until the stock is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Repeat with the remaining broth, adding 2 ladlefuls at a time and stirring every couple of minutes, until the rice is cooked through, about 30 minutes total. Remove from heat, add the butternut squash, sage, and Parmesan. Stir well.
butternut squash: $2.89
chicken stock: $2.99 (I only had about a cup of homemade broth left so I used a 32 oz carton from the store)
arborio rice: $1.33 (about 1/3 of a $3.99 box)
sage: FREE from the garden
Parmesan cheese: $.76 (I used about 1/10, if that, of a wedge I just bought this weekend for $7.64)
butter, olive oil, salt and pepper: it’s difficult to estimate, but let’s call it $.55
Grand total: $9.16
Cost per serving: $1.83
So, this isn’t as inexpensive as some of the other recipes I’ve tried recently, and in fact, most risotto recipes also call for a cup or so of wine which I didn’t use just because we didn’t have any. But when I gave a bowl of the risotto to Mark, he took one bite, looked at me, and said, “Whoa.” That’s about the highest in culinary praise around here. And he was right; the risotto was good. Really good. So that’s how the fates aligned for me — we blew our weekly budget money by Tuesday, I got sick, but on the very day I was feeling crummiest, I just followed the menu and ended up with a fantastic meal. Whoa, indeed.