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Butternut Squash Risotto: Holiday Comfort Food

One of my favorite cold-weather dishes to serve my family and friends is risotto. Risotto is an incredibly versatile dish, perfect for cleaning out the vegetable drawer or using leftovers.

When you learn the basic technique of adding liquid to rice, stirring until liquid is absorbed , and then adding more liquid, will provide you the skills necessary to accomplish a marvelous dish that is only limited to you imagination.

Most of us are watching every penny that we spend, and risotto is a perfect dish to stretch grocery budgets. Most grocery stores sell boxes of Arborio rice, which many will find to be quite costly. An alternative is to shop at the bulk section of Winco. Winco has fantastic finds, including Arborio rice. It is my favorite place to purchase bulk chocolate, dried fruits and nuts as well.

Happy holidays to all of our Food for Thought: A News Cafe readers. I wish you a healthy and prosperous season.

Butternut Squash Risotto

(Serves 4-6)

1 medium butternut squash ( 3-ish pounds)
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup water
1 medium yellow onion, chopped (1 cup)
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh ginger root, minced (optional)
1 stick unsalted butter
2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
Fresh chives or flat leaf parsley
For garnish: Fresh chives or parsley and Parmesan curls.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Cut the squash in half and remove the seeds. Place cut side down on a lightly oiled baking dish. Bake squash for about 20 minutes or until a tester is easily inserted. Cool squash and scoop out into a bowl. Mash the squash. Now, this is entirely up to your personal preference. The squash can be chunky or smooth, I like to puree about half of my squash and then add the rough mash at the end for a little texture.

In a separate sauce pan heat the stock and water. The stock needs to be hot when adding to the rice. This loosens the starch molecules into the liquid, and thus creates the creamy texture that risotto is known for.

In a large skillet or sauce pan cook the onion, garlic and ginger in the butter over low heat. Add the rice and stir constantly. (Rice is first added to the onions and garlic that are sauteing in butter, so each grain of rice becomes coated with a layer of fat, preparing the grain for absorbing all of the delicious liquids that will be added.) Next add wine and cook, continuing to stir, until the liquid is absorbed. Begin to add broth about 1/2 cup at a time, continuing to stir, and waiting for the liquid to be absorbed before adding any more stock. Add squash. Continue adding liquid and stirring until absorbed until the rice is tender and creamy. This process will take about 30 minutes. Stir in chives or parsley. Salt and pepper to taste.

Traditional risotto is served on a plate, to assure the diner that the dish was prepared properly. Garnish with Parmesan curls. A nice salad is a perfect accompaniment to this warm, rustic dish.

Enjoy!

Andrea Charroin was a trained baker and pastry chef in San Francisco before she and her family moved to Redding nine years ago. After falling in love with Redding’s downtown, Andrea and husband Westley opened a little pastry shop, Rene-Joule Patisserie, across from the Cascade Theatre. For the three years Rene-Joule was in business, it was renowned for making everything from scratch, using the best ingredients and keeping with a seasonal menu. To this day, Andrea is asked about her Marathon Bars, Orange Twists and sourdough bread.

Copyright 2008 Andrea R. Charroin. Visit my blog at bakerslove.typepad.com

Andrea Charroin

Andrea Charroin is a trained baker and pastry chef. She worked in San Francisco before she, her husband, Westley, and their two sons moved to Redding. They fell in love with Redding’s downtown and opened a little pastry shop, Rene-Joule Patisserie.

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