About Me

I have been cooking my way through life for over 50 years, beginning with mud pies as a child. I've turned a corner now and feel a Renaissance in my life. Recipes and Random Thoughts is my personal spin in a blog about how to prepare good food and how it prepares you for life. I want to share with you, honest to goodness food punctuated with perspective from the special memories and moments that have marked my journey.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Butternut Squash Risotto with Baby Leeks

It always pays to have a well stocked pantry and freezer. I'm usually in the kitchen early enough to give dinner thorough consideration and my complete attention, but not today.  I had no plan and got home later than usual but with my first butternut squash of the season and some baby leeks I could whip up one of my favorite comfort meals - butternut squash risotto.  I've never seen "baby" leeks before so I had to grab them, but regular leeks or 1 cup of diced onion works just as well. I always have olive oil and wine on hand so keeping Arborio rice, Pancetta, Parmesan, fresh thyme and homemade chicken stock readily available insured a delicious and cozy evening meal  for two with just a quick stop at the grocery for the fresh vegetables.

Risotto doesn't have a reputation as an efficient meal but it can be done in about 45 minutes if you use the narrow end of a larger butternut squash and save the bulb end for later (skipping the scooping of the seeds).  Use a vegetable peeler and a sharp knife to make short work of the prep.  The baby size leeks were quick to slice and chop (remember the folds of the leek must be thoroughly washed for sand but this baby size had none).  I thawed the stock in the microwave and warmed it in a separate sauce pan until ready to use but store bought is fine.  I had already grated a good bit of a chunk of Parmesan and had it ready in a zip lock bag.  Now this is NOT a Rachel Ray 30 minute meal or a Ree Drummond 16 minute meal.  Adding the chicken stock in 1 ladle at a time does take a bit of patience, so have a glass of wine and unwind.  If you want to prepare this in advance, incorporate 2 cups of the stock, cover and then finish the remaining stock just before serving.  It takes 3-5 minutes to incorporate each addition of stock.

1 tbls olive oil
2 oz diced Pancetta
1 tbls butter and more as necessary
2 cups diced butternut squash (1/2 inch cubes)
1 cup white part leek sliced to 1/4 inch (or substitute,1 cup diced onion)
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme (or substitute 1/2 tsp dried thyme)
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt & pepper

In a large fry pan, heat the oil and add the Pancetta over medium heat.  Cook Pancetta until fat is rendered and meat has just turned brown.  Remove Pancetta and drain on paper toweling.  Pour off all but 1 tbls fat.  Reduce the heat and add the butter and butternut squash and saute' until slightly browned, then add the sliced leeks and thyme and cook another minute or two. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper. Remove vegetables and set aside.  Add more butter and the rice and cook stirring until the grains look milky white.  Deglaze the pan with white wine. Stirring up and loosen all brown bits.  When the wine is almost absorbed, add chicken stock 1 ladle at a time, stirring constantly.  Add the next ladle as the liquid is absorbed after each addition.  When all the liquid is added, return the Pancetta, vegetables and the Parmesan and combine.  Add a little water if necessary.  Adjust the seasoning. The rice should be creamy.

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