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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Savory Fall Risotto

I made this last week, and remembered to have the camera ready to take a picture of it, but then the batteries were dead, and I was too impatient and hungry to track down new ones. So when I made it again this week, I was sure to remember.

Here's the finished product:

This is from a recipe of Jamie Oliver's that was published in the Oregonian a few years ago. He called it "Pumpkin, Sage, Chestnut and Bacon Risotto"; I call it Butternut & Bacon Risotto, and my version (adapted from his) is below.
Butternut & Bacon Risotto

1 medium butternut squash, sliced into 1-inch slices and seeds removed
olive oil
1 T whole coriander seeds
salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 thin or 6 thick slices of bacon or pancetta (I had thick on hand)
a few ounces chopped shelled roasted chestnuts
15 or so fresh sage leaves
6-8 C chicken broth, reconstituted from concentrated stock
3 shallots, finely chopped (about a racquetball's worth)
2 large ribes celery, finely chopped
two small or one large carrot, peeled, halved lengthwise, and sliced on the diagonal
6 or so leaves of black Italian (lacinato) kale, stems removed and sliced crosswise into 1/4 inch pieces
1 1/2 C arborio rice, give or take
[1/2 C dry white wine or dry white vermouth--didn't have so didn't use]
a few tablespoons butter, cut into cubes
a few ounces finely grated parmesan

Preheat oven to 375°. Cut neck of butternut squash into 1-inch slices. Cut bulb of squash in half lengthwise, remove seeds and pulp, and then cut crosswife into 1-inch slices. Arrange squash on a lightly oiled large rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with a little olive oil, and set aside.

Using a mortar & pestle, crush the coriander seeds. Sprinkle about half of them over the pumpkin, along with a little salt and pepper. If using thick-cut bacon, spread it over the squash slices now. Bake until squash is soft, about 30-40 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the other half of the coriander seeds with the chestnuts and sage and a little salt and pepper. Add a tablespoon or so of olive oil, and toss to coat. Pull pan of pumpkin out of the oven. If using thin-cut bacon, spread it over the squash. Sprinkle the coriander-chestnut-sage mixture over the top, and return to oven until bacon is crisp. [I found my bacon was so thick that I had to pull it off for more frying to fully render the fat, which added another step. Tant pis.] Remove from the oven and set aside.

Warm your broth in the microwave so it's piping hot. Heat a large skillet, dutch oven or risotto pan, add a little olive oil, shallots, celery, carrots, kale and a pinch of salt. Sauté until starting to soften, then add rice and keep stirring for a couple of minutes, until the rice starts to be translucent. If using wine, add it now and stir until it's absorbed.

Start adding broth a bit at a time, stirring well after each addition (but you don't have to stir it CONSTANTLY). Meanwhile, chop the bacon (before or after frying it to crisp it up if you used really thick bacon like I did), and skin and irregularly-chop the squash, adding it to the pan as you go (that way the earliest bits will break down completely, and the later bits will be chunky). Rice is done when it doesn't have any hard bits in the middle.

Remove pan from heat and stir in butter and parmesan. The original recipe calls for sprinkling the bacon, chestnuts, coriander & sage on top, but it's much easier to just mix them in.

Now, that's basically the structure of the recipe as it was printed in the Oregonian. However, it would be possible to make it in fewer steps and with fewer pans. I think I might have done it this way before (there's a note at the bottom of my copy of the recipe--"cook pumpkin in risotto?"). This would involve starting out with the bacon in the risotto pan, frying the sage leaves with it, reserving a small amount of bacon grease to sauté the aromatics, and dicing the squash raw and adding it to the pan with the first addition of broth. I think it would still work, and it would be faster and easier.

One thing's for sure--do not skip the crushed whole coriander seeds. In the past when I've made this recipe, I didn't have any on hand and used a small amount of ground coriander. It's so much better with the crushed whole seeds, I can't even tell you.

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Blogger Hevansrich said...

(with great emphasis) That looks DELICIOUS!

December 21, 2007 at 8:05 AM  
Blogger MWR said...

This is where I normally would make my pitch for Carnaroli. And I guess that was it.

December 21, 2007 at 4:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe it would make a difference in a really plain risotto, a Milanese maybe, but in this one there is so much other stuff going on I don't think you'd be able to tell the difference.

December 21, 2007 at 11:23 PM  

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