I found this recipe in Bon Apetite this month, and since I still have butternut squash in the basement from my garden, I thought I’d give it a try. I’ve been looking for meatless recipes that are still hearty enough to satisfy the family, and that aren’t soup. For some reason my family equates soup with torture. Anyway, I made a few modifications, including using brown arborio rice and substituting pecans for the pine nuts.
It does take considerably longer with brown rice, but I think the brown rice is a little more forgiving – I was able to achieve that creamy risotto texture with little stirring and none of the gumminess that sometimes plagues white rice risotto. This could easily be a wonderful vegetarian dish by using vegetable stock instead of chicken stock, and of course, you wouldn’t want to use bacon fat! I couldn’t resist though – bacon makes everything taste better, and I keep leftovers in the fridge for recipes like this that benefit from that bit of extra flavor.
Here’s my version:
Brown Rice Risotto w Winter Squash & Pecans
4 T olive oil or bacon fat, divided
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 T finely chopped fresh sage
1 T Sherry
1 onion, chopped
5-6 c low sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 c brown arborio rice
1/4 c medium-dry Sherry or Marsala
3/4 c pecans, chopped
Shaved Parmesan cheese (optional)
Heat 2 T olive oil in heavy large nonstick skillet over high heat. Add squash; sprinkle with sea salt and sauté until beginning to brown, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, add chopped sage and pecans, and cook until squash is just tender, stirring often, about 8 minutes. Sprinkle Sherry over; toss to incorporate. Transfer squash to plate. Wipe skillet clean.
Heat remaining 2 T olive oil in same skillet over high heat. Add chopped onions, sprinkle with sea salt, and sauté until onions are soft and beginning to brown, about 6 minutes. Bring chicken stock to a simmer in large saucepan. Cover and keep warm over low heat. (Or microwave, reheating as necessary so you are adding warm stock to the rice.)
Add arborio rice to onions in skillet. Stir until rice is slightly translucent, about 4 minutes. Add Sherry; stir until absorbed. Add 1 cup warm broth; stir occasionally until almost all liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Add three more cups of broth, letting the rice absorb each cup before adding the next, and stirring occasionally. Add the remaining cup of stock, reduce heat, and cover the pan, cooking 15-20 minutes until rice is just tender but still firm to bite and risotto is creamy. Remove lid, add squash mixture, and cook until squash is heated through and most of the liquid is absorbed, 5-10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Top risotto with shaved Parmesan.