8.19.2010

Butternut Squash and Vanilla Risotto

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First there were endless turnips, then green and yellow squash, now it's butternut squash. I like butternut squash. I like it baked and grilled. It always reminds me of sweet potatoes. I was pretty sure the husband would not like it, as he hates squash and sweet potatoes, but I was determined to make him eat his own harvest.

It has been too hot to bake and our grill has run out of gas. Since we are in the process of moving, it hasn't made sense to get a new tank. Before packing up my cookbooks, I found two butternut squash recipes in Giada's Kitchen. I got this cookbook at a work holiday gift exchange, and it has served me well.

When I first saw the recipe for butternut squash and vanilla risotto, I thought it sounded too weird. But, then I reread the recipe and decided to give it a try. Good thing I did, this dish was delicious. The husband called it "possibly the best thing you've made... maybe".
At first, adding vanilla bean really scared me. With the butternut squash being already naturally sweet, I wasn't sure how the flavors would work together. But I can tell you now. They worked like magic. The vanilla bean really balanced the squash, and added a nice richness.
I have previously complained on here about making risotto because it takes a long time. The only way I've learned to deal with this is to prepare myself. I add another 20 minutes to what the recipe time says, pour a glass of wine, and turn the TV on. Then I stand, and drink, and look longingly towards the couch.
Butternut Squash and Vanilla Risotto
Adapted from Giada's Kitchen

4 cups vegetable broth (I used chicken)
1 large vanilla bean
3 cups peeled cubed (1-inch wide) butternut squash, about 12 ounces
2 tablespoons butter, plus 1 tablespoon
3/4 cups finely chopped onion (I used shallots)
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice or medium-grain white rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan (more never hurts)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives

1) Begin warming your broth in a medium pot. Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds and add them, and the bean, to the broth. When the broth comes to a simmer reduce the heat to low.

2) Add the butternut squash to the simmering broth and cook until tender, 5 minutes (I'm not sure what  Giada's did to speed this up, but it took me 15 minutes). Using a slotted spoon remove the butternut squash and set aside. Turn the heat on the broth down to very low and cover to keep warm.

3) Meanwhile, in a dutch oven, or heavy pan, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute until tender but not brown, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat with the butter. Add the wine and simmer until the wine has almost completely evaporated, about 3 minutes.

4) Add 1/2 cup of the simmering broth and stir until almost completely absorbed, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking the rice, adding the broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and allowing each addition to of the broth to absorb before adding the next, until the rice is tender but still firm to the bite and the mixture is creamy, about 20 minutes total. Discard the vanilla bean. Turn off the heat.

5) Gently stir in the butternut squash, Parmesan, the remaining tablespoon of butter, and salt. Transfer the risotto to a serving bowl and sprinkle with chives

As always, serve your risotto immediately. It also tasted great the next day, but the texture was off.

So, if you also want your loved ones to think this is probably, maybe the best dish you've ever made, then give it a try. It's really good.

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