Butternut Squash Risotto

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Here it is, the day before Halloween, and I’m posting some serious grown-up food. I started stressing out a little bit last week because I felt like I should come up with something cute and kid-friendly and Halloween-y to post here. And then I made this risotto, and I thought how this is the way I want to celebrate Halloween–in the future.

Right now my Halloweens are all about my kids. There’s a whole slew of things you’re suddenly responsible for once you become a parent that can sort of make Halloween a bit of a chore–making/buying costumes, getting pumpkins, carving pumpkins, buying candy, helping out with Halloween parades & parties at the kids’ schools, etc. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not a complete Debbie Downer or something. Any one of those “chores” that I just mentioned are of course also sort of fun, it’s just that they also make your to-do list explode.

I try to embrace the chaos as best as I can, and that means letting go of any notions of what I should be doing. I do all of those Halloween “chores,” and I try to enjoy them as much as possible. That means sometimes I make the kids’ costumes (if they seem easy or are completely not an option to buy) and other times I buy them. We eat “Halloweiners” for dinner on Halloween. These are the infamous cheese-injected hot dogs wrapped in canned pastry that kids love, but don’t really thrill me. But they get the job done fast which means we can actually trick-or-treat without cutting into bedtime too much.

But, what would I make if the kids were suddenly grown up and out of the house? This risotto. Then, instead of trailing behind trick-or-treaters in the rain/snow, I would snuggle up on the couch with my husband & a glass of wine and watch “Dead Alive.” (Seriously the most hilarious zombie movie of all time.) Well, I might only be dreaming of risotto on Halloween this year, but I think my movie & wine with my husband are still a go–once all the trick-or-treaters have been tucked into bed.

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Butternut Squash Risotto (adapted from http://www.lidiasitaly.com)

1 small butternut squash
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion
1 medium shallot
2 cups arborio rice
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup dry white wine (like pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc)
6 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 small bunch scallions
1 pound raw shrimp, peeled & deveined (optional)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
black pepper

Peel the squash. Cut in half lengthwise snd scrape out all the seeds and stringy bits. Roughly chop and place in a microwave-safe bowl with a few Tablespoons of water. Cover and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Stir, replace the cover and microwave for another 5 minutes. Drain the water and puree with an immersion blender.

Chop the onion and shallot into small pieces. Slice the scallions (white and green parts) and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion & shallots and saute until golden & softened, about 8 minutes.

When the onion & shallot are halfway done cooking, measure 3 1/4 cups of the broth into a microwave-safe container (like a Pyrex measuring cup) and microwave on high for about 4 minutes. The broth should be hot but not boiling. Set aside.

Add the rice to the Dutch oven and stir to coat it in oil. Add the nutmeg and continue to stir until the rice is slightly toasted, about 1-2 minutes. Pour in the wine and stir until evaporated.

Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the salt and 1/2 cup of the hot broth. Cook, stirring frequently, until all the broth is absorbed. Add the squash puree and stir to combine.

Add 1/4 cup of hot broth and cook, stirring frequently until it is completely absorbed. Continue adding hot broth in 1/4 cup increments, stirring frequently and waiting for it to absorb completely before adding more.

Microwave the remaining 3 1/4 cups broth for 4 minutes (until hot) when you are almost out of the first batch of hot broth. Repeat the previous step until you only have 1/4 cup of broth left.

Add the final 1/4 cup of hot broth, the sliced scallions, and the shrimp (if using). Cook until the shrimp are pink and the broth has been absorbed.

Remove the Dutch oven from the heat. Add the butter and cheese and stir vigorously until they are melted. Serve topped with ground black pepper.

Time: 1 hour

Serves: 4-6 as an entree, 8-12 as an appetizer

Notes: The traditional way to make risotto usually has you keep the broth at a simmer in a saucepan on the stove and ladle it into the rice 1/4 cup at a time. I personally prefer my microwave method because then you don’t have to worry about over-heating the broth and losing too much to evaporation. Also, I’m a messy ladler and tend to lose broth that way too. I only microwave half the broth at a time so that it is still hot when I need it. Obviously the traditional method works too, so feel free to use the technique that you’re most comfortable with.

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