Mushroom Risotto with Roasted Buttercup Squash

I love risotto. I have been making it for years. . the same basic recipe. It’s one of those things I learned to make really well and made over and over. It was one of the first things I ever made my husband when we were first dating. I’m pretty sure it was one of the things that made him first fall in love with me. After 6 years together it is still the dish he requests when I ask him what he is in the mood to eat. Some couples have a song, but I sort of think of risotto as our food. Unfortunately for him, after making it a zillion times, it is not usually my go to dish anymore. Sometimes I forget all about it for long stretches of time.

As much as I love risotto, I do not love squash. Squishy squash. Paste like, cloying, sweet-in-a-bad-way squash. I have never liked squash. I stayed as far away from it as possible. I avoided it like the plague. It’s a very pretty color and very popular and cheap when in season. . . but I couldn’t wrap my head around, or tongue rather, the icky flavor. (Yes, icky)

However, this fall I’ve decided to try to embrace the squash. Find a way to like it. Broaden my horizons. My first try was a dessert. A butternut squash pudding.  That I liked because it tasted like pumpkin pie. But my suspicion was that as long as I spiced the squash like you would pumpkin in a dessert, I would like it. The sweet versions of cooking with squash weren’t going to be the hard part. The savory was.

This roasted buttercup squash was the first squash that I can honestly say I liked. I did not have to force myself to swallow it or make cringing faces while eating it. It was so yummy I even wished I had more once it was gone. I think it’s a combination of how I cooked it and the kind of squash I used. The buttercup squash was one I had never tried before and it had a better, drier texture and was less sweet than other squash.

I peeled it to get it ready for roasting. If you slice off a small piece on each end of the squash it will sit flat on the cutting board and make it easier (and safer) to peel. Then I follow the contour of the squash with my knife to slice off the skin. Once it’s peeled I cut it in half to scoop out the stringy, seedy guts before I slice it up to roast it. I used a serrated grapefruit spoon to scoop out the guts.

After I sliced it up I tossed it with a drizzle of olive oil and a little sprinkle of salt and spread it out in a single layer on a sheet pan. I covered the pan with foil first only because I am a strong believer in never having to wash my sheet pans if I can help it! I always use foil, parchment, a Silpat, etc. I roasted it in a 425 degree oven for 20 minutes. I started the risotto while the squash cooks. Then set the roasted squash aside until the risotto was done.

The ingredients are pretty simple. (all this plus the parmesan cheese I forgot to stick in the picture) Usually I have all these things on hand in my kitchen. You can vary this. . .like use Vidalia onion or shallot instead of red onion, etc. I used 2 cans of chicken broth and a little water to make up 5 cups. Arborio or short grain rice is important in risotto. It is a starchy rice and you can ‘massage’ the starch out of it while cooking. That’s what makes risotto so creamy. I usually use white wine vinegar but some good quality white wine works well too. I mixed it up a bit and used a Fustini’s grapefruit white balsamic for this risotto. (Fustini’s is a favorite of mine. They are a Michigan vinegar and olive oil company. I had to dedicate an entire shelf in my cupboard to their products.)

Heat your broth in the microwave or on the stove top. Slice and saute your mushrooms and set them aside. In a pan, heat a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the diced onion and saute briefly until they start to soften. Add the rice and garlic and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook and stir for a minute. Add the vinegar and stir until the rice absorbs the vinegar. Then add the hot broth  a ladle full or two at a time. (You need the broth to be hot so it doesn’t cool down the pan every time you add some.) Then stir the rice slowly as it starts to absorb the liquid. It will start to look creamy and start absorbing the broth.  Add a ladle of broth every few minutes. It should take about 20 minutes and use about 4 to 5 cups of liquid. Once it looks like it is no longer absorbing the liquid, turn off the heat.  Taste test a grain of rice. It should be a little al dente. Now is when you can stir back in the mushrooms and then add the parmesan cheese.

The cheese will melt into the risotto and add to the creaminess. Just give it a few good stirs. I usually serve this as a side dish to grilled chicken but it really can stand on its own as a meal. So I scooped it into bowls and topped it with some of the roasted buttercup squash. It was fabulous!

Mushroom Risotto with Roasted Buttercup Squash

1 buttercup squash (sliced and roasted)

Olive oil

8oz sliced mushrooms

1 red onion, diced

1 tsp minced fresh garlic

3 Tbsp white wine vinegar

1 cup arborio rice (short grain)

4-5 cups chicken stock (or a mix of chicken stock and water)

1 oz shredded parmesan cheese

salt and pepper to taste

Takes about 20 minutes over medium heat. You’ll need to stir pretty regularly to coax the starch out of the rice but it will be worth the wait.

On a side note. . .did you know you can roast the seeds of your squash the way you would pumpkin seeds? They are very tasty. So I decided that I would roast these seeds quickly in the hot oven after the squash roasted and sprinkle them on top of the risotto. However, it helps when you turn on an oven timer. I stuck them in the hot oven and didn’t set a timer. . . next thing I know I smell burning seeds! They were pretty blackened. I tried to salvage a few less burnt seeds (you can see them in the first pic up top) but they were very charred. Good thing Tim and I usually love those little overcooked bits of stuff and we both thought they were yummy.

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