Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto

Sometimes the meals that have true "romantic dinner" potential sneak up on you. Take today for instance: I woke up, did some research, went to the chiropractor, and thought to myself, "Hey, I should do a new sandwich post today."

I happened to be right by Stop and Shop.

The suspense is killing you, right?

Well, while I was perusing the isles, trying to remember what exactly my chicken cutlet sandwich consisted of, I saw it... Already cut, peeled, and neatly packaged right in front of me: Butternut squash. What a great wintery vegetable. I threw it in my cart figuring I could always find something to do with it, and went on my way.

Turned a corner, and BLAMMO! I was face to face with lamb rib chops. On SALE. When does Stop and Shop have rib chops? When are they on sale!?!? It came to me in an epiphany. I was tempted to scream "eureka!" and run like Archimedes, naked through the isles.

Rosemary Braised Lamb Rib Chops
Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto
Roasted Asparagus with Truffle Oil

Feast fit for a king... or in this case, my family.

I've said this before and I'll say it again, you know what's more exciting than getting flowers on Valentine's Day or your birthday? Getting them when you're not expecting them, for no reason at all, just 'cause.

The same goes for dinners like this one. Sure, I could make my Dad lamb chops on his birthday, but a meal like this on a Tuesday night? You'd better believe he was the happiest guy in town.

So happy, he made his Robert De Niro Face

His favorite part of the meal? Surprisingly, it was the risotto. A risotto done well is always satisfying. I have to say... it's a labor of love. If you aren't going to be patient and take the time to make any risotto the right way, you'd better put down that spoon. This rice takes commitment!

Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto

1 Butternut Squash, cut, peeled into 1"-2" pieces
4 tblsp Olive Oil
1 tblsp Sea Salt
1 tblsp Light Brown Sugar

2 cups Arborio Rice
1 Shallot, minced
1 Clove Garlic, minced
4 tblsp Unsalted Butter
1 cup White Wine (I used Pinot Grigio because it is light)
6 cups Chicken Broth
1 cup Parmesan Cheese, finely grated + extra for serving

Preheat oven to 400*f

1) Place the squash in a bowl or large Ziploc bag and add the olive oil, sea salt, and brown sugar. Mix well until all of the squash is coated evenly.

2) Spread out all of the squash on a baking sheet*, and place in the oven to roast. You can keep it there basically for the duration of the cook-time. It will take the squash about 20-30 minutes to become very soft.

3) Meanwhile, in a 2 qt. pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat.

4) Add the shallots and garlic. Saute and let them cook until they are fragrant and soft, about 5-7 minutes.

5) Add the rice to the pot and stir so that the rice is fully coated and combined with the butter and shallots. Add the wine.

6) Once the wine reduces and is absorbed by the rice, add the chicken stock 1 cup at a time, each time waiting until the prior cup has been almost completely absorbed. Stir constantly. Continue this measure until the rice is thoroughly cooked and creamy.

7) Add the Parmesan cheese and stir to combine.

8) Finally, add the roasted squash to the pot. Reduce heat to low and stir well, smashing the squash into the rice until it is more or less uniform.

9) Serve with extra cheese!

Intrigued? You don't even know! This rice is the perfect accent to a succulent meal. It's warm and timeless. The squash flavor isn't overwhelming, and just adds something special to a very basic (but still tasty) risotto. It goes great with lamb or beef. Along with our truffled asparagus and a good glass of red, if I closed my eyes I would have thought I was at a cozy homestead restaurant. Bon Appetite!

*I used the Bar Pan from Pampered Chef. I love it because it a) holds seasoning, b) adapts the exact temperature from the oven, so it cooks uniformly, and c) cooks the bottom and top at the same time. It is my favorite thing in my kitchen.

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