Thursday, March 11, 2010

Mimi's Butternut Squash Risotto

What's the secret to making a good risotto? I learned this years ago from an Italian lady while I was in nursing school in Middletown, Connecticut.  She claimed you must use fresh ingredients and follow 5 steps.
Here I've chopped up my butternut squash, 2 red chile peppers, 2 large cloves of garlic.  Now for you onion lovers out there. Chop up an onion, but since you all know what Mac thinks of onion I don't have one here.

Step 1: Soffritto
Every risotto starts with a good soffritto.  Sautéing onions garlic and chili peppers is your first step in butter or olive oil.  I prefer butter. Pretend you see an onion in the pan!

Step 2: Tostatura

 You will now add your rice to the soffritto with no liquid, so that each grain gets warmed up. I always use  Arborio rice, 2 cups.  I stir the rice into the pan with the soffritto mix, it's kinda like what you do when you prepare  Rice-a-roni. I warm the grains 3 or 4 minutes and stir continuously.

Step 3: Stock
Never use water!  Use stock. Stock is full of flavor and it will make a better risotto. You can prepare stock in just 15 minutes if you have shrimps shells (for fish stock), chicken bones or just a some vegetables to throw in a pot. It’s well worth your time, although I sometimes use Knorr bouillon dissolved in hot water…Here I used knorr chicken stock....I made enough for 8 cups of stock. To start I pour 2 cups of hot stock over the rice. Put your butternut squash in now.

Stock will  need to be added slowly, one ladle at a time, and replenished when it is almost completely absorbed by the rice.  Each addition of the stock needs to be accompanied by continuous stirring, so that the temperature is maintained constant and each grain gets the same exposure. Most importantly each ladle of stock must be VERY hot when you add it to the rice.

This is about how full you want it each time you stir in a ladle of stock.

Step 4: Resting

In order to prepare risotto for serving, you need to let it rest. This means taking the rice off your heat source when the rice grains are still a bit al dente.  Do not stir. I usually wait 5 minutes. The process allows the temperature to come down and to prepare risotto for the last and most important step.

Step 5: Mantecatura

Manteca is Spanish for butter.  At this stage, you will do what you can to emulsify the rice and give its creamy consistence.   Beat in 5 really cold butter cubes and cheese ( Parmigiano) I also add fresh parsley here and salt and pepper to taste. It's best to use a cup to cup and a half of shaved parmigiano.

Now garnish with shaved parmigiano and some parsley. This is a lovely dish if you are having vegetarians for dinner. If you are a meat lover you could add Italian sausage instead of the squash.  If you don't like the bite of red chiles leave them out!
And there you have it..... a creamy delight!

This weekend we are going to be surprised guests at a German "Rund" Geburtstag (Round Birthday) in Clausen.  Our friend Erhart is turning 60.  Should be fun!

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