Oh my, I made my test batch of risotto yesterday and it was something else! I did a butternut squash, morel mushroom, spinach, and feta cheese risotto. Of course it also had sauteed [fresh] garlic and sweet onions as well, and as far as I am concerned, it was a hit. I am definitely making it again for our Thanksgiving slash Mom's birthday dinner. And I can't wait to get in the brulee torch and try the pumpkin brulee recipe!
So, lets get back to this risotto. I had never made risotto before last night, in fact I had only eaten it once. That risotto was quite flavorful and just plain awesome. It was in an Italian restaurant at the Newport Levee (Newport, KY) and I fell in love. It had pine nuts, pumpkin, and chicken, and was to die for. So I began checking out recipes and hunting for ingredients to give this a whirl myself. Other than the fact that you have to stand and stir a LOT, it really isn't that difficult. I will say though, you really don't need as much as they say for a serving. I made a "4" serving risotto for two of us, expecting we would have a small amount of left overs. Well, we had a huge bowl of left overs! Mine did take longer to cook than the recipe stated, and I used more liquid than the original recipe too. I also substituted a butternut squash for roasted pumpkin, and added some lovely morel mushrooms as well. While I served mine with grilled (marinated, and oh so tender) pork chops, I would have been happy to eat the risotto as the main course. While I did change a few things in the basic recipe, the next time I will change a few more.
To begin with, I split the squash in half, took out the seeds, lightly oiled the top, and seasoned it with salt and pepper. I then laid it face down in a pan and baked it at 400 degrees for about 18 minutes. This gave me squash that was almost completely done, but still a tad hard. I just didnt want it all mushy. While this was cooking, I began by sauteing diced (fresh) garlic and a diced sweet onion. Next time, for a serving of four, I will use two (medium) onions and two garlic cloves. Once these were soft in the pan, I added 2 cups arborio rice and stirred for about two minutes, then I began adding liquid. I read that you need to add liquid slowly,m only adding more in once the first added is absorbed into the rice. Meanwhile, you must keep stirring. You continue to stir and add liquid until the rice is done. The original recipe I drew my inspiration from called for 4 cups of vegetable stock. I began with 3 cups of chicken stalk and 1 cup of white cooking wine. By the time it was all said and done, I had used 17 ounces of wine and about 5 cups of the chicken stock. Of course I also stirred my arm off, but I guess that is to be expected from what I hear. When the rice was almost tender, I took the cooked squash and mashed half of it, and cubed the other half. I also put the feta cheese on a tray and placed it it in the oven until it began to melt. While the recipe called for 6 ounces of feta cheese, I found that to be too overwhelming, and ended up removing some from the top. So I would recommend cutting the feta to about 4 ounces. You can always add more, but getting it out isn't always easy! Anyway, next I added about 6 sliced baby morel mushrooms to the pan. When the rice was cooked, I added the mashed squash, about one cup of frozen spinach that had just been thawed and drained, and half of the feta cheese to the pan. Stirred. then filled serving bowls and placed some diced squash on top, as well as the rest of the feta cheese. And whalla, it was time to eat! Yum Yum! Now I have to tell you that I have read that risotto should not be saved and reheated, but there was no way I was throwing out so much food. So I covered some with a paper towel after I sprinkles a few flecks of water on it, and used the microwave to reheat. While the texture was slightly more mushy than last night, the taste was actually better, more infused. I didnt mind it at all, so I will be nuking more in the future!