In honor of the Fall Extravaganza, I have here today a quintessential autumn recipe. You’d be hard pressed to find ingredients more fall-like than butternut squash and fresh sage, right? This is the perfect dish to make when there’s a chill in the air, and a delicious accompaniment to most any type of roasted meat (I’m thinking chicken or pork), but seared sea scallops would be lovely as well.
Now, for a bit of fine print (sorry, I feel compelled to share the dirty details with you so as to avoid disappointment later on). While the prep time in this particular recipe is what I would call minimal, risotto itself isn’t a low-maintenance type of dish. In other words, I wouldn’t recommend this recipe if you’re exhausted after a long work day and in a ravenous state. When it comes to risotto, you’ll need patience, and patience is hard to come by when you’re about to chew your own arm off.
The long and the short is, you’ll have to spend some time slaving away at the stove. But all is not lost! If you’re serving risotto at a dinner party, just invite your guests to come stand by the stove and keep you company in the kitchen. They can make sure your glass of wine (or apple cider or Yoo-Hoo or what-have-you) is topped off while you stir. They’ll be astounded by your gourmet skills and endebted to you for life!
Another plus, all that stirring is bound to fry at least a third of the calories contained in a serving of risotto. I think. At least, that’s what I tell myself.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH RISOTTO WITH BACON & SAGE
Serves: 4 as a main course, or 6 as a starter
1 qt. low sodium chicken broth (more if needed)
1/2 c. dry white wine
2 T. olive oil
10 fresh sage leaves
4 slices bacon, cut crosswise into thirds
2 medium shallots, minced
2 c. butternut squash, peeled and 1/4″ dice (butternut squash is on sale for .39/lb!)
1 1/2 c. arborio rice
1/2 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese (BelGioios0 cheeses are on sale all month)
Combine the chicken broth and wine in a small saucepan and set over medium heat. In a medium (3 qt.) saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the sage leaves and fry, turning once, until they’ve turned dark green in most places, about 1 minute total. Don’t brown them. With a fork, transfer leaves to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Put the bacon in the saucepan and cook, stirring occasionally, until nicely browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the bacon to the plate with the sage.
Add the shallots to the saucepan and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until softened, about 1 minute. Add the squash and rice and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Ladle enough of the hot broth mixture to just cover the rice. Cook, stirring frequently, until the broth is mostly absorbed. Add another ladleful of broth and continue cooking, stirring, and adding more ladlefuls of broth as the previous additions are absorbed, until the rice is tender with just a slightly toothsome quality, about 25 minutes. As the risotto cooks, adjust the heat so that it bubbles gently. The broth mixture needn’t be boiling; it should just be hot. If you use all the broth and wine before the rice gets tender, use more broth but not more wine.
Set aside the nicest looking sage leaves as a garnish (1 leaf per serving). Crumble half of the bacon and the remaining sage leaves into the risotto. Stir in the Parmesan. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Crumble the remaining bacon over each serving and garnish with a sage leaf. Serve immediately.
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