Ah, the dreaded risotto. I avoided it for years, picturing Gordon Ramsay screaming in my face about how much I suck. But I have overcome my fear, and have learned that risotto doesn’t have to be as difficult as one might think. As long as you understand a few basic steps and why you are doing them, it gets easier.
1. Use the specific rice listed below and DO NOT RINSE IT. You need all that yummy starchy starch to make it nice and creamy.
2. This is a recipe that requires patience and your full attention. When adding the vegetable stock you’ll need to do it in small amounts and it gets repetitive. Pay attention to how quickly the liquid is absorbed each time you add it because it doesn’t take much for the risotto to burn.
3. Keep stirring (somewhat vigorously!) This will release all of that starch.
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 tbsp fresh sage, finely chopped
1/4 cup safflower oil
1 tbsp sherry wine vinegar
2 small white onions, chopped
4 cups homemade vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups arborio rice (do not rinse! you want the extra starch in the risotto)
1/4 cup dry sherry wine
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
20 or so decent size sage leaves for frying
2 cups canola oil
Sea salt and pepper for seasoning
Combine the vegetable broth and 2 cups of water into a large sauce pan. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low and cover. We’ll be using this later so we just want to keep it warm for now.
Heat 2 tbsp of safflower oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the squash and season with a bit of sea salt. Sauté for about 5 minutes, until the squash begins to brown. Reduce the heat to medium and add the sage. Cook for another 6-8 minutes, or until the squash is just getting tender. Try not to over cook it because you don’t want the squash to be mushy. Add in the sherry wine vinegar and gently toss to incorporate. Transfer the squash to a plate so that you can re-use the skillet to cook the onions. I like to put the squash specifically onto a plate because it allows it to cool at a more even temperature. If you put it into a bowl, typically the squash on the bottom will be more cooked (since the squash is still technically cooking even after you remove it from the heat.)
Heat 2 more tbsp of safflower oil to the skillet and increase the heat to medium-high again. Add in the onions and season with some more sea salt. This helps to draw out some of the moisture. Sauté for about 5 minutes, or until the onions are translucent and begin to brown. Reduce the heat to low and cover the skillet with a lid. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. You’ll want the onions to be very soft and golden brown in color. Uncover and add in the rice. Increase the heat to medium and stir the rice for about 5 minutes, until its a bit translucent in color. Add in the Sherry wine and stir until absorbed. With risotto, you want to continually stir it so that all of that starch left on the rice can make it nice and creamy, and also so it doesn’t burn on the bottom. Add in 1 cup of the heated vegetable broth and stir until the liquid is absorbed (just a few minutes.) Continue adding in the broth this way, 1 cup-full at a time, stirring until absorbed before adding in more. Once the rice is just tender, but still al dente (about 15 minutes) add in the squash. Stir to combine. Add in more broth and stir until just absorbed. Season with sea salt and pepper. Stir in half of the pine nuts and transfer the risotto to a large serving dish/bowl. Sprinkle with the remaining pine nuts.
Heat the canola oil in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Add the sage leaves, one at a time, cooking for only a few seconds each, then carefully transferring them to a paper towel with a fork or slotted spoon. These will burn very quickly so only keep them in the oil briefly and make sure the oil is not too hot, but you still want them to sizzle when you drop them in.
Garnish the risotto with the fried sage leaves.