It’s been a really busy October, without much activity here because of all the activity in other parts of life. I had hoped to continue the Next Food Blog Star competition cooks, but had to do some traveling, so I still hope to get back to all of that, but, in the meantime, our annual Hallowine party came and went. I’ll be writing more on that very soon, but I wanted to talk a bit about the “star” dish of the party, a butternut squash risotto.
I have an aunt and uncle in Dallas, and Mike has become quite a home chef over the past several years. He’s got an oven that I’d love to have, a Turbochef oven, which uses a combination of microwave and convection technologies to cook foods in record time with fantastic results. He also has a Bubba Keg in his arsenal now, and is doing some great seafood and poulty on that. He’s also an avid student at cooking classes at a local Whole Foods, and gets a lot of great ideas from one of the instructors there and often sends me recipes and photos from her classes.
Annie Herbin is the instructor that inspires Mike to try different things, and he’s been really happy with things he’s made from her recipes. Of course, I had to put a Livefire twist on one of them, and I was able to make a dish that impressed our friends in both presentation and taste!
The ingredients for Butternut Squash Risotto are:
- 1/2 smoked chicken, chopped into bite-sized pieces
- 4 cups of butternut squash in 1″ or smaller cubes
- 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 medium to large Cinderella pumpkin
- 3 tbsp olive oil (plus some for pumpkin)
- 1 cup diced shallot
- 6 cloves diced garlic
- 3 cups arborio rice
- 8 cups vegetable stock
- 1 tbsp fresh thyme (removed from stems)
- 3 tbsp butter
- 1 cup good quality, grated Parmesan cheese
- salt and pepper to taste
To start this dish, I indirectly grilled the cubed butternut squash at about 300 degrees for about 35 minutes or so, until it was tender (I could easily stick a fork in it). I also started the chicken smoking at the same time, with the squash set above the chicken, so they both got some pecan wood smoke. When the butternut squash was done, it came in and got the 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar poured over it in a shallow dish and was set aside.
While the chicken finished, I cut the top off the Cinderella pumpkin and cleaned out all the stuff inside, making sure to leave an inch or so all around. The pumpkin was covered with a coating of olive oil inside and out, and added to the smoker after the chicken came off. While the pumpkin cooked, I heated the stock up to a simmer, then, I heated up a 6 quart pan to medium and sweated the shallot and garlic for a few minutes. The thyme was added, then the rice.
When doing risotto, the rice needs to move around a good bit to not brown it, and it needs to be coated with the oil and cooked until it’s opaque. Once it got there (and it does eventually!), the stock was added a cup at a time, making sure to fully incorporate all the liquid added each time. This is the step that makes or breaks risotto, making it seem creamy without adding anything else.
Once all the liquid was incorporated into the rice, I put in the butter and Parmesan cheese, then tasted to see if salt and pepper was needed. Then I added the squash and chicken. The pumpkin was done about then, only about 2/3 cooked. I added the risotto to the pumpkin, using the pumpkin only as a dish for the risotto. A serving spoon was added, and the risotto was served! I was pleased to see that it was a huge hit at the party, not just the presentation, which is perfect for Thanksgiving, but the risotto was great, too!
Mike has sent me several recipes from Anni to try, and I’m looking forward to seeing how they turn out with live fire…