the joys of life changes and of risotto
Tonight we had a bittersweet dinner with our long-time friends, Chris and Kathy Froggatt. We had a “going away” dinner and celebration of a new and exciting move for our dear friends. Like us, Chris and Kathy enjoy good food and fine wine, it was a wonderful evening and the knowledge that even though they are moving cross-country, there will be many more evenings of fabulous food and wine in our future together! Love you guys!!! So……
Like a real friendship, risotto is a dish that needs time and attention. It is lovely to serve at a dinner party, but can be somewhat of a pain because of its high-maintenance manor. An easy way to overcome this is to cook the risotto halfway through early in the afternoon and then finish it just before serving. To do so; cook the risotto using only half of the liquid (in this case, chicken stock). At that point, turn off the burners on both the risotto and the stock, cover both pans and walk away. When your guests arrive, turn the covered stock on over the lowest heat. Then about 12 minutes before you are ready to serve, turn on risotto and continue to add the hot stock until risotto is creamy, add remaining ingredients, and you’re good to go!
Butternut squash can be another problematic item. It can be dangerous to cut if done incorrectly. The safe and correct way is to peel and cut the squash, then trim off each end. Next cut off the bulb end. Place the bulb portion on a the flat side you created by trimming the bottom and cut in half. Scoop out the seeds and place each half on its flat side, cut into slices, cut those slices into cubes. Next take the long neck end and place it on one of its flat sides and cut in half, just as with the bulb, place the halves on their flat sided and cut into slices, then cubes. See the pictures if you are a visual person, like me!
Leeks are the final important item to talk about in this recipe. Leeks are fabulous and so wonderful to cook with but, oh my, are they dirty, gritty, muddy things! As you can see in the pictures included in the recipe, it is vital to clean the leeks before cooking! The best way to do so is to slice them, immerse them in cold water and swish around. The leeks will float and the mud, muck, and sand will fall to the bottom of the bowl. Lift out the leeks with your hands or a slotted spoon and place in a strainer and rinse under cold running water, drain and then they are ready to use. Only the white and light green parts of the leek are used, the dark green portions are to tough to be eaten.
1 large butternut squash (about 2 pounds), peeled, seeded, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
5 to 6 cups chicken stock
3 large leeks (white and pale green parts only), thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
2 cups arborio rice
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup Calvados (apple brandy)
1/2 cup grated or shredded Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons minced fresh sage
1/2 cup toasted and skinned hazelnut, coarsely chopped
Sage sprigs, for garnish
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil.
Place butternut squash pieces on baking sheet in one layer and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper and thyme; toss to coat. Tuck in rosemary sprigs. Roast until tender and beginning to brown, about 40 minutes, stirring after 20 minutes. Remove from oven, discard the rosemary sprigs and set aside 3/4 cup of the squash.
Bring stock to simmer in medium saucepan. Reduce heat to very low; cover to keep stock hot.
Heat 2 tablespoons remaining olive oil in a heavy large saucepan or pot over medium-low heat. Add leeks and sauté until soft but not brown, about 10 minutes. Add rice; stir 1 minute. Add wine and Calvados and simmer until absorbed, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes. Add 1/2 cup or a ladle-full of the hot stock; simmer until absorbed, stirring frequently. Add remaining stock 1/2 cup at a time, allowing broth to be absorbed before adding more and stirring frequently, until rice is tender and mixture is creamy, about 25 minutes total. Add roasted squash, Parmesan cheese, butter, and sage; stir until heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon onto serving plates, then sprinkle with the reserved squash and hazelnuts. Garnish each with a sage sprig and serve immediately.
Serves 8 as an entree or 12 as a side dish