Sunday, February 13, 2011

Pancetta and Butternut Squash Risotto

These two main ingredients are favorites of mine and could probably make an appearance in many more recipes. Pancetta is the perfect salty ingredient, whereas butternut squash, on top of being inexpensive is a nice sweet yet very distinct taste that can add a lot of color (because it's orange) and flavor to a dish.

I'm borrowing this recipe from a friend of mine, the first time I had it, watched the process of making risotto, I was mesmerized. I hadn't had a lot of risotto before then and had never attempted to make it myself. The results were amazing and I have yet to get tired of this recipe, a nice one to pass along to people because it's fairly easy.

• 2 cups arborio rice
• 1 Butternut squash
• 300 g of pancetta, one big piece
• 1 sweet onion - diced
• 1-2 liters of chicken stock
• butter
• Parmesan cheese
• sage
• salt and pepper

Start by peeling and coring the butternut squash, cut the squash into moderately sized cubes and spread them out evenly on a baking sheet. Drizzle a little oil over the lot to lightly coat them and sprinkle some fresh ground pepper and course salt over the squash as well. Roast at 350° for around 20 minutes stirring them around once so that the roast up golden brown and tender. Not mush, we are not done cooking and this isn't a soup.

In a large stainless saucepan add small cubes of pancetta; you'll want to take the big hunk of it and cut it into bite sized cubes, not too small as they will reduce in size in the pan anyway. (you should now put about 1 liter of your chicken stock in a pot to warm it up, you don't need to bring it to a boil but you also don't want to be adding cold stock to hot risotto) Fry the pancetta until you end up with chewy browned meaty bits then remove them from the pan and set aside, leave the drippings in there you'll need them next.

Add your arborio rice to the bacon grease, my apologies, but there's no reason to waste good drippings. You may need to add a little butter because there isn't a lot of liquid that that may have come out of the pancetta. Toast the arborio rice in the butter, you want a nice golden brown on the rice before you start adding stock. Give the rice a head start and then add the diced onion. Onion needs to be golden brown, rice toasted.

De-glaze the pan with white wine and start adding the chicken stock one cup at a time, not one cup after another. Dump one cup of warm stock into the rice and stir making sure you don't end up with large pools, let the stock reduce to the point where it's almost entirely absorbed then add another. Continue this process until you reach your desired doneness. Remember, too much stock means starch soup; instead of adding moisture to the rice making it plump and sticky it pulls the starch completely out of the rice and creates porridge, if you wanted porridge you'd ask for porridge.

Midway through adding the stock take half of your squash and mash it with a fork, no need to go crazy just make it mushy and add to the rice. Near the end of cooking add in the remaining larger pieces of squash and the pancetta. When you think it's finished, tasting is always is your best friend, add in about a cup of Parmesan cheese and a tablespoon of butter, stir. Done, enjoy!

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