Heather – 1, Risotto – 0

I tend to be apprehensive about trying new techniques due to a self-propagated fear of food failure. Once I’m familiar with something it’s no sweat, but it’s the breaking the ice part that gets me panicked. It’s all due to my own ridiculous expectations of my cooking, and my pastry chef father who had no qualms with telling his young daughter why her chocolate chip cookies weren’t bake shop quality.

Risotto had always been something I feared making. Most of what I’d read said making a good one was a tricky process. Eek! You mean it might turn out BAD?  Gluey? Sticky? Soupy? I don’t really know what sparked my confidence, but one night I decided to just go for it. If it fails, it fails, and Finn will eat it anyway.

Well, let me tell you. My risotto is the queen of all risottos. It did not fail, and much to my delight it was absolutely delicious! You can basically put anything you want in it, including leftovers. In recent weeks I’ve made risottos of the plain fish stock (to go with some grilled swordfish kabobs), butternut squash and roman cauliflower, and asparagus varieties. I even made a rice pudding with dried cherries risotto-style. Though all remarkably good, the most successful bites were the ones full of nutty, sweet butternut squash.

One thing I love about this risotto is that it’s rather deceiving. Without the addition of cream, milk, butter, parmesan this risotto comes out incredibly creamy and rich. If you were really in a pinch, all you’d really need is Arborio rice and water, though I don’t suggest that. Unless you like your food bland, in which case, go for it. For the rest of you, try this recipe and then pat yourself on the back for a job well done, then come back here and tell me all about it!

Roasted Butternut Squash and Leek Risotto

2 cups butternut squash, cubed, seasoned and roasted
2 cups Arborio rice
8 cups stock (vegetable, chicken, turkey, whatever.)
1 large onion, roughly chopped
1 large leek, roughly chopped, dark green leaves discarded
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Before you begin, you need to heat up your stock. Put all 8 cups of it into a sauce pan on the stove and cover until it’s time to start adding it in. Keep a ladle handy, you’ll need it.

In a heavy bottomed pan (I use my 7qt dutch oven) heat oil over medium-high heat and add the onion, leek and garlic. Cook until translucent. Add rice, stir constantly until it looks light brown and a little bit toasted. Add a ladle-full of stock to the pan to deglaze and start the rice cooking. I don’t think it’s necessary to stir constantly, but I do think it’s necessary to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom of your pan. Once the liquid has almost all evaporated add another ladle. Keep repeating this process until the rice is al dente. (I find this usually takes around 20 minutes). When it reaches this point, add in your butternut squash (or other vegetable) and fold in to combine. Add more stock if you’ve found your mixture is too thick for your liking, and serve immediately. Risotto thickens as it cools.

If you run out of stock, you can either heat some more up or just start adding warm water into the mix. The flavor of the stock becomes to concentrated that adding some water won’t detract from the flavor of your risotto.

It’s a dish that can be made for all seasons, and leftovers can be turned into patties or crispy creamy arancini. Try any combination of vegetables and stocks to see what suits you best!

Bon appétit!

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