Every chef I know makes risotto differently. And it seems they each believe their way is THE way to make it. The only thing they can seem to agree on is that a good risotto should be creamy but not mushy – cook it too long and it turns to a glop best used to affix wallpaper. And though this recipe is not simple, neither is it difficult to do – and the time required to make it is well rewarded by the pleasure it brings.
Ingredients (Serves 4 as main course, or 8 as first course)
6 ½ Cups low-sodium, Organic chicken stock
4 Ozs pancetta, chopped fine (1/4” square)
2 Tbsp Olive oil
1 Large onion, finely chopped
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 ½ Cup Arborio rice
2 Cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed
½ Cup white wine, not heavily oaked
2 tsp garlic, micro-minced
2 Tbsp fresh thyme, destemmed and chopped
4 Ozs fresh shitake mushrooms, sliced thin
¼ – ½ Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
6 Ozs fresh crimini mushrooms, sliced thin
Salt and Pepper
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees (F). Set a large sauce pot on a back burner over low heat and begin warming the chicken stock.
Heat a large, oven-proof stock pot or Dutch oven over med-high heat for 2-3 minutes. When hot, add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and when the oil is hot enough to shimmer (but not smoke), add the squash. Sauté until it starts to brown – about 5 minutes – stirring so each side of the squash makes contact with the pan. Move your pot from the stove to the oven for 8 -10 minutes or until the squash is tender but not mushy. Remove from oven, transfer squash into a bowl (set the pot aside, we’ll use it again in a minute) and gently stir the minced garlic into the squash. Set aside.
Heat a 12” sauté pan over med-high heat for two minutes, then stir in 2 Tbsp of the butter. As soon as the foam subsides, add the mushrooms, a pinch of salt and fresh pepper and sauté for ~5 minutes without touching. As soon as the bottom mushrooms show good browning, begin stirring and continue cooking for a minute AFTER the mushroom liquid has all cooked off, then set aside.
Increase heat to high under chicken stock. Heat your large, empty squash pot over medium-high heat, add another Tbsp of the oil and sauté the pancetta until brown. Add the onion and sauté until soft, ~5 minutes. Add the Arborio rice and begin stirring (for the next 30 minutes!) But first, after a full 2 minutes of stirring the hot rice, add the white wine and simmer until nearly absorbed.
Add the first cup of hot chicken stock to the rice. Stirring often, add more liquid as soon as it is nearly absorbed – more frequently at first as the rice gets saturated after about 20 minutes, when the rice will be “al dente” tender. Gently stir in the thyme, squash and mushrooms. Add another ½ cup of stock, the parmesan cheese and 2 tablespoons of butter and gently combine. Taste for salt and pepper. The rice should be creamy and tender.
Dave the Wine Merchant