Posted by: Deana | January 13, 2010

Winter and Summer Risottos

Thanks to Z’s Italian culinary background, I’ve learned that the work it takes to make risotto is deliciously worth it.  My favorite is Asparagus Risotto; we’ve also enjoyed a Risotto alla Milanese.   But one of the nice things about risotto is how different it tastes with different ingredients.  Below are two other risotto recipes we enjoy; one more of a winter risotto, butternut squash risotto (even though neither one of us really likes squash very much – in risotto it’s wonderful), and the other more of a summer risotto, corn harvest risotto.

Butternut Squash Risotto
from Williams Sonoma Savoring Pasta & Rice, one of their Tuscany recipes (we’ve enjoyed a lot of great recipes from this book)

  • 5 cups (40 fl oz) chicken stock
  • 1¼ lb. piece orange-fleshed winter squash, peeled and seeded
  • 4 T. unsalted butter (I’m sure I used salted, I rarely have unsalted on hand)
  • 4 T. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped (we use shallots in place of onions)
  • 2 oz. pancetta or bacon, finely cubed
  • pinch of salt, plus salt to taste
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • ¼ c. dry white wine
  • 1/3 c. grated Parmesan cheese (we use cheese that’s been aged for 2 years so lactose isn’t a problem)
  • white pepper to taste

In a saucepan over medium heat, bring the stock to a gentle simmer.  Adjust the heat to maintain a bare simmer.

Cut the squash into finger-sized strips.  In a saucepan over low heat, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.  Add half of the onion and all of the pancetta or bacon and sauté until it begins to sweat its fat and the onion begins to soften, about 5 minutes.  Add the squash, stir to coat with the onion, and sauté gently for a couple of minutes.  Add ½ broth and a generous pinch of salt and cook over low heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  The squash will take on the consistency of a chunky purée.  Remove from the heat and set aside.

In a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat, warm the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil.  Add the remaining onion and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the rice, mixing well with the other ingredients to coat the grains with the oil.  Cook and stir for 1-2 minutes to toast the grains lightly.  Pour in the wine and cook, stirring until the rice absorbs most of the liquid, about 3 minutes.

Add a ladleful (about ½ c.) of the stock, reduce the heat to low, and stir continuously as the rice absorbs the liquid.  Continue adding the liquid in ½-cup increments, stirring after each addition, until the rice has absorbed most of the liquid.

When the rice has cooked for 12 minutes, stir in the squash and continue adding the liquid in small increments and stirring continuously.  When the grains are tender yet firm to the bite and the risotto has a creamy consistency (after about 16-18 minutes total – it seems to take longer for me), remove from the heat and stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and the cheese.  Season with salt and white pepper.

Remove the risotto from the heat and let rest for a couple of minutes before serving.

Corn Harvest Risotto
adapted from a recipe in another book we’ve enjoyed often, 366 Delicious Ways to Cook Rice, Beans, and Grains

  • 5 c. water
  • 3 c. fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • 1 c. dry white wine
  • 1 tes. salt
  • 1 T. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1¾ c. uncooked Arborio rice
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 T. chopped fresh basil, plus extra for garnish
  • 1 ripe tomato, diced (slimy insides removed)
  • salt & freshly ground black pepper

In a medium saucepan, bring 1 cup of the water to a boil.  Add the corn, cover, and cook for 4 minutes.  Pour into a blender and purée.  Return the puréed corn to the saucepan.  Add the remaining 4 cups water, the wine, salt, and heat to mild simmering.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the rice, shallots, garlic (I wait until the shallots are almost cooked before adding the garlic because it can burn quickly) and toss to coat with the oil.  Sauté for 3-5 minutes, until the rice appears toasted.

Add 1 cup of the simmering corn broth to the rice and reduce the heat to medium.   Stir until most of the liquid has been absorbed.  Continue adding more corn broth, 1 cup at a time, cooking and stirring as the liquid is absorbed.  When half the corn broth has been absorbed, stir in the basil.  It will take between 18 and 35 minutes for the liquid to be absorbed and the rice to become tender and creamy.  Stir in the tomato.  Season to taste with salt and pepper, if needed.  Serve immediately, garnish with fresh basil leaves, if desired.

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