I finally made it and it really was heaven! I’ve been dreaming of creating a risotto that included two of my favorite foods, bacon and butternut squash. Finally last night, I went for it! Now I know that others have created the very same dish, as food is just like art: everyone has done everything, and everyone is re-inventing everything. But, it’s still fun to give it a try! A few months ago I made butternut squash and shrimp risotto for my parents and it was okay, but the squash ended up being pulverized by the end of the cooking process, so this time I vowed to change that! How? You ask? Simple, roasted butternut squash, which makes it even more delicious!
Now, before you keep reading and are thinking to yourself: “Whatever, she’s crazy! Risotto is scary and hard to make! It takes effort! And time!!” relax! No, really. Risotto is merely scary because it is the unknown. Once you have given it a try, I promise you will be hooked. BUT you do need a fair amount of dedication, and also time. You can not rush the cooking or make it happen quicker. You need a good half hour to kill in the kitchen for it to be delicious. Just a few minutes less can make the rice come out hard and icky. Too long can make it mushy and unpalatable. So make it on a night when you have nowhere to be and plenty of time to babysit the food and you will be thrilled with your hard work. Plus, it makes you look really fancy!
Here is what I did!
Bacon and Butternut Squash Risotto
one medium-sized butternut squash, diced into small, mouth-sized pieces (I buy the pre-chopped kind and then chop it further to save time. NOTE: sometimes you can’t find it fresh, but you can always find it frozen and in that case it is chopped perfectly! There’s no shame in frozen, go for it!)
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
ground sage or chopped sage, whatever you’ve got, about 1 tablespoon
6 slices of a nice hickory bacon if you can find it, cut into small bite sized hunks (you can also opt for turkey bacon if you are cutting calories)
1 shallot, chopped small
1 c. arborio or risotto rice
a nice dry white wine (a few glugs, maybe a cup?)
about 4-5 cups of low sodium chicken broth
a few handfuls of parmesan cheese, plus some to top it off with.
preheat your oven to 400. Get out a nice mid-sized pot with a heavy bottom for the risotto to cook in. Pour yourself a glass of white wine to enjoy whilst standing over the stove for the next 25 minutes!
Prepare a baking sheet by putting down a layer of aluminum foil and then coating that with cooking spray (I’m lazy, this makes one less dish!) If you didn’t already, chop your squash into small bite sized cubes and throw into a bowl. Add the olive oil, salt and pepper and sage, toss to coat evenly. Spread squash out in a single layer on prepared baking sheet. Bake in the oven at 400 degrees for about a half hour. Halfway through, take out and give it a shake to keep things from sticking. If you want the squash cooked even further, you can bake it an extra ten minutes or so. I liked it with a little bit of bite, but mike said it could have cooked a few minutes more, so it’s up to you! When the squash is ready, just take it out of the oven and let it sit to cool on the baking sheet until you are ready for it.
While the squash is baking, start the risotto. Heat up the heavy bottomed pot with a medium flame and throw in the bacon. Cook bacon, stirring it frequently, until it is crispy and brown, about 5 minutes (it might have been more, I was drinking wine, who knows!?). When bacon is ready, drain out extra grease, but leave a tiny bit in the pan still with the bacon. Add the risotto and toss with the bacon, lightly cooking the risotto for about 2 minutes. The rice will become slightly translucent. Now deglaze the pan with the wine. Stir rapidly, scraping up all the burnt on bacon bits.
Warm up the chicken broth in a measuring cup in the microwave, about a minute or so. Set a timer for 20 minutes so you have an idea of when to check your rice for done-ness. Add the chicken broth to the rice as soon as the wine is absorbed ONLY ONE CUP WORTH AT A TIME. If you add more than a cup at a time, the rice will not cook correctly and will end up watery and gross! Adjust heat to medium to low and let the broth cook out, stirring occasionally. As soon as the broth is absorbed, add another cup of broth and microwave some more for the next round. Keep adding warmed broth a cup-full at the time until the 20 minutes is up (this usually takes me only four cups of broth but you might need a fifth) . At this time, take a tiny taste of the risotto. If it is a tad hard or crunchy, add the last cup of broth. If it is nice and chewy and sticky, it is perfect! Add that butternut squash that is roasted and waiting to be eaten, stirring it in and letting the rice cook an extra minute or so. Turn off the flame, add the parmesan and stir. Serve immediately in pretty bowls with extra cheese on top. Pour yourself some more wine too, because you just made super fancy food and it didn’t even take that much time! Enjoy!