Before I dive right into the recipe… the Port and Fin family suffered a tragic loss late last week and we are still reeling from it. Posting might be a little light this week as a result, but we appreciate all your continued support during this difficult time. Lemony Snicket, author of the wildly popular Series of Unfortunate Events books and owner of one truly wonderful pseudonym, once wrote: “It is a curious thing, the death of a loved one. We all know that our time in this world is limited, and that eventually all of us will end up underneath some sheet, never to wake up. And yet it is always a surprise when it happens to someone we know. It is like walking up the stairs to your bedroom in the dark, and thinking there is one more stair than there is. Your foot falls down, through the air, and there is a sickly moment of dark surprise as you try and readjust the way you thought of things.” What else can be said about loss? It is such a universal human experience. You just have to feel it, and let it hurt, until one day it doesn’t hurt quite so acutely and you can remember with happiness, and not be so overwhelmed by the sting. It will probably still sting every once in a while… it’s the price of loving but it’s always worth it. Thus, today is a day for comfort food if there ever was one. Risotto. Squash risotto. A hug in a bowl. If you’re a fan of this blog, you’ll know I have a lot of butternut squash growing in my garden right now. So many squashes. Recently, I’ve made butternut galette and butternut pretzels, and that’s only the stuff I’ve posted. Butternut soup, mashed butternut, roast butternut, stuffed butternut, butternut pie, butternut ravioli, butternut rotini. I’m turning into Bubba from Forrest Gump but with squash in place of shrimp. If you are kosher or vegetarian, by all means omit the bacon, use a flavourful alternative, or up the number of crispy sage leaves you add. Once the leaves fry up they become light as a feather and pleasantly crispy- a great textural foil for a dish that is decadent and creamy but otherwise uniform in texture.
Risotto is such a great bowl of comfort food as the days cool off- I often make a bumper batch so I get some leftovers. It firms up over night, so it’s not great on its own, but these arancini are perfect for day-old risotto!
|Butternut Squash Risotto with Smoked Bacon & Crispy Fried Sage|| |
- 2 cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed
- Olive oil
- 2 Tbsp butter
- ½ onion, finely chopped
- 2 sticks celery, finely chopped
- 1 cup arborio rice
- ⅓ cup dry white wine (optional)
- 4 cups hot chicken or vegetable stock
- ¼ cup parmesan cheese, grated
- 2 rashers high-quality smoked bacon (omit for vegetarian)
- ½ small bunch sage, leaves picked
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly oil cubed squash and arrange on a baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, until tender. Remove from oven, let cool slightly and mash. Don't worry about getting the mash completely smooth, some chunks of squash add texture. If you prefer a smooth risotto, you can boil or steam the cubes of squash and mash them like you would potatoes (don't add milk or butter, though).
- Melt butter in a medium-large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and celery and cook, stirring frequently, until soft but not browned. Add rice and stir. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, for an additional 2-2 minutes, until the rice is glossy but not browned.
- Add a ladle of stock to the rice mixture and stir. The trick to a creamy risotto is to add already warm stock 1 ladle at a time so the rice cooks evenly. Continue to add ladle after ladle of stock, letting the previous spoonful mostly absorb before adding the next. Stir risotto frequently, to massage out the starch and really add creaminess.
- After half the stock has been added to the rice, add the mashed butternut and let it cook in then continue to add stock. Cooked risotto should be creamy but have a little bite to it, like pasta cooked al dente.
- In a small pan, cook bacon. Once the bacon is cooked to your liking, remove from pan and let cool on some paper towel. Once it is cool enough to handle, coarsely chop.
- Heat the pan with the bacon fat over medium heat then add the sage leaves (if you are omitting the bacon, use an oil with a high smoking point like vegetable or canola for this part). They will crisp up and brown in a minute or so, then remove them immediately from the heat and let them cool. They should be fragrant and have a lovely light, crispy texture- similar to kale chips.
- Once the risotto is cooked through to your liking (this should take about 40 minutes), remove from heat. Add parmesan cheese and stir. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve immediately with a sprinkle of chopped bacon and crispy sage leaves.