Wednesday, October 14, 2009

JUST ENOUGH KNOWLEDGE TO BE DANGEROUS!

The main trouble with all of the cooking shows on the television these days is that I simply do not have enough time to make and eat everything that looks good. Some shows you watch just for fun like Paula Dean – her recipes make me gain 5 pounds simply watching the show or maybe Guy Fieri who is simply too much fun not to watch but his recipes are a bit out there for me. Everyday I see something that prompts me to wonder if I can possibly take their recipe and scale it down to something I can cook for just me.

This week I was watching Lidia Bastianich make risotto and it looked so good I just couldn’t resist. Unfortunately, her shows seldom give specific quantities and many recipes are not posted to her free web sites. Frankly I’ve never attempted to make risotto – it always seemed pretty complicated and something you have to “tend” on the stove and I’m really not good at that sort of micro-managing my cooking process. However the technique Lidia used this week was right up my alley, stick it all in a pot, cover it with liquid and cook until done. Hmmm, sounded easy. So while doing my shopping this weekend I picked up a box of Arborio rice and a squash, the two basic ingredients for the dish.

Lidia began her version with a sauté of carrots, celery and onion whizzed up in the food processor so I got a jump start on that by prepping those the day before I wanted to cook. Plus I peeled and cubed up half of my butternut squash (which by the way is no simple task – those suckers are tough!) Patience was the key to that process and I’m happy I didn’t try to do that the day I wanted to cook or I may have given up.

So last night I started out with a cup of mirepoix and a quart of diced up squash. Here was my first hint that this recipe was going to serve me plus the household next door but I am not to be daunted once I begin an experiment. So back to the DVR to take a final look at the process by Lidia and then into the kitchen I headed for dinner the next night.

I must say WOW! This really was delicious and aside from the obvious fact that I will be eating risotto for the next week this was a great start to my risotto cooking career. The process was simple once I got past the peeling of the squash and it created a luscious, stick to your ribs rice dish that everyone should like. The next step is to figure out proportions to make a smaller quantity, so stay tuned. Meanwhile, here is what I ended up making:


BUTTERNUT SQUASH RISOTTO

1 Tbls butter
3 Tbls olive oil
2 small carrots
1 small onion
1 celery stalk
½ butternut squash, peeled and cubed to a ½ inch dice
4 cups liquid (I used water, but you could use veg broth or chicken stock)
1 cup Arborio rice
Salt and pepper to taste
Seasonings to taste – I used some nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice

Whiz up the carrots, celery and onion (this makes your mirepoix) in a food processor but don’t make a paste, just cut up evenly. Heat a heavy pan and add the butter and olive oil. Sauté the mirepoix for 4-5 minutes adding salt and pepper to season, then add a bit more olive oil and toss in the squash.

Sauté the squash for 2-3 minutes then add in liquid, bring to a boil and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the rice, cover the pot, reduce the heat to a slow simmer and cook 12-15 minutes until the rice is done. You may add more liquid to this as it cooks as the rice will absorb a lot of broth. Remember this is not a fluffy rice dish, but should be creamy in texture.

Once the rice is cooked, add additional spices as you wish – I liked the fall combination of nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice but you could easily go with cumin for a different flavor base.

Since I had enough of this to feed me for a week, I took about ¾ cup of the risotto the next night, added about a half cup of cooked, diced, chicken and a cup and a half of chicken stock and made some very good soup.

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