I know fall is definitely here when it’s time for this risotto. However, risotto is a subtle dish. I remember the first time I had risotto at a local, well known restaurant years ago and I was completely disappointed. They had described it has having herbs, mushrooms, peppers, wine and butter, and all I got was a bowl of rice! To be honest, I’m still not sure whether it was my naive palette or that they didn’t do it right. I have since learned that it is hard to get good risotto out, which is one of the reasons I so enjoy it in my own house. The basic parts of risotto are arborio rice, onions, wine and stock. Since it has so few components, you have to be sure each piece adds to the flavor, which is why I never make risotto unless I have my own chicken stock to make it with. The other trick I’ve found that really builds flavor is to be sure you give the onions enough time to caramelize. Cook them longer then you think you need to, at least 10 minutes and more if you have the time. Then go from there. Once you’ve got the basic recipe down, you can make your own versions. Another version I do is with sausage, spinach and bacon with red wine instead of white and in the spring, I like to make one with prawns, peas and saffron. If those sound good, stay tuned…
Takes about 1 hour, all active time
This goes well with caesar salad, which you can make ahead and have done so you can work on the risotto and serve together when ready
1 medium butternut squash (about 1 lb)-peeled, seeded and diced into 1/4 inch cubes
24-26 fresh sage leaves
salt and pepper
7-8 cups of chicken stock (see easy
1 medium onion, chopped fine
6 tblsp butter
2 cups risotto
1/2 cup wine
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
Put the diced squash into a pot and cook with a few of the whole sage leaves, salt and 1 cup of the chicken stock. Cover and cook until tender, but not mushy, about 5-10 minutes. Meanwhile, chop 6 sage leaves fine and dice the onion.
Heat the rest of the chicken stock and hold at a simmer. In another large pot or Dutch oven, melt 3 tblsp of the butter and add the chopped sage. Cook for a minute or so to release the fragrance, then add the onion and cook over medium heat until it’s translucent and slightly carmelized, about 10 minutes.
While the onion is cooking, melt 1 tblsp of butter in a small pan until it foams and then add the rest of the sage leaves and saute until crisp, turning as you cook them. Drain on paper towels and set aside.
Add the rice and 1 tsp of salt to the onion mixture and cook, stirring to coat the rice with the butter and onion, about 2 minutes. Turn up the heat to medium-high and add the wine, stirring constantly until the wine is absorbed. Then add just enough stock, about a ladleful, to cover the rice, stir and keep cooking until the stock is absorbed.
Continue in this manner, adding a ladleful of stock and stirring until it’s absorbed, then adding more stock, until the rice begins to look and feel done, about 15 minutes. The rice will begin to look creamier and less opaque as it becomes closer to done, but taste to be sure. When rice is done or very close to it, stir in the squash and the stock it was cooked in, the rest of the butter and the grated Parmesan. Continue cooking for 3-5 minutes, check the flavors and consistency, adding more stock if needed. Serve with more grated Parmesan and the fried sage leaves on top.