Thursday, October 27, 2011

Butternut Squash & Shiitake Mushroom Risotto

C'mon Autumn! Let's get that squash rolling!

Well, I hope that intro had a lasting cheer to it. Because that's as about as chipper as this post is going to get from here on out.

I am officially fed up with cooking for one. Somebody, please, just find me a book titled "Cooking When Living Alone for the Very First Time."

Everything else I can more or less manage.Yet being in the kitchen, every dish feels like I ought to be sharing it. Or it turns out enough to feed an army. Freeze it, you say? Ha. Welcome to single gal fridge, complete with the tiniest lil' freezie box you've ever seen. I don't even think my American ice trays would fit! Sound bitter? About those obviously cooking-free married men who invented my little fridge, you bet.

Cooking off the cuff always feeds more than it intends. You add some of this, some off that, and then of course you have to add some of that other stuff to balance it all out. Before you know it, you haven't even got enough tupperware to contain it all!

And, what happens when the dish turns out absolutely fantastic, like this butternut and shiitake risotto topped with sage, walnuts, Parmesan, and bacon? I mean really, it was ahmaaazing.

I had been happily stirring and slowly adding in the stock for the better part of an hour, tasted it, was blown away, then realized that the room was empty and the pot was full. I ate quietly.

I am sure things will turn around soon. They always do. In the meantime, I'll be enjoying my autumnal burst of flavours for days to come.

The base of the risotto is flavoured with the addition of some fennel stalks, the liquid from the dried shiitake mushroom soak, and Marsala. After you work in the spiced roasted squash and walnuts, top with fresh sage, Parmesan and bacon crumblings, be prepared to be transported to the most brilliant leaf-crunching autumnal experience a mouth can have!

Looking for more fall flavors? Check out last year's butternut squash and lentils and a few other tasty treats on a recent round up from the Kitchn.

(Edited Note: This dish freezes really well. The textures and flavours were all just brilliant after 2 weeks in the freezer. I shouldn't have complained so much about no one to share it with...hello no-cook dinners!)

Continue to Recipe...

Recipe: Butternut Squash & Shiitake Mushroom Risotto {with Sage and Bacon}
Serves an army of 8
Time 1 1/4 hour

2 butternut squash
3 Tb olive oil
4 small dried red chillies, chopped
1/4 tsp cinnamon

6 dried shiitake mushrooms
2 Tb olive oil
1 Tb butter
1 onion
stalks from 1 fennel (about 1/4 cup chopped)
1 garlic
1/2 tsp cumin
250 ml Marsala
650g arborio rice
1 liter chicken stock

6 strips (100g) bacon 
3/4 cup walnuts (toasted if they're not already dry-crunchy)
fresh Parmesan
a bunch of fresh sage leaves

1) Start your mushrooms soaking in a little dish of cold water (hot will make them bitter, not soften faster). They need 45 minutes or more to soften.

2) Heat oven to 400°F/200°C. Quarter the squash and cut each piece in half. Throw the 16 chunks into a roasting pan, skin down, and brush with olive oil. Sprinkle with dried chili bits, cinnamon, and salt. Roast for 50 minutes. 

3) Wait 20 minutes after the squash are in the oven before starting the risotto (or the risotto will mush up while the squash finishes.) Heat the chicken stock in a medium saucepan. In a large pot, saute the onion and fennel in the butter/olive oil on low heat for 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cumin for a minute, then stir in the rice until well coated with the oil mix. Pour in the Marsala and stir until it's absorbed. While it's soaking in, chop up the shiitakes, as they should be soft by now. Stir them in, and add the liquid they soaked in into the chicken broth.

4) Over low heat, stir in the broth one ladle scoop at a time. Each time you add in another scoop, wait until absorbed before adding the next. It should take about 20 minutes total. It's a good time to tidy up the kitchen during this time. Cook the bacon now as well until crispy. Also, the squash should be finishing up. Take out and allow to cool.

5) Peel off the squash skins, cube, and stir into the risotto. Stir in half of the chopped walnuts. Top with the rest of the walnuts, crumbled bacon bits, Parmesan, and shredded sage leaves. 

Dobrou Chut'/ Enjoy.
-- Jo


  1. Hey, just checking out your blog from a Tasteologie post. Butternut squash risotto sounds amazing (and I just bought some butternut squash, so this must be fate).

    In a tangent off your "Cooking Your Way Through a Divorce" comment, have you looked at Judith Jones' "The Pleasures of Cooking for One?" She wrote it after her husband passed away, and it's been on my list to check out:

    Just thought I'd pass along. Food is so amazing, sometimes you just want to keep it all to yourself anyway ;)

  2. Yum! Looks and sounds delicious! Definitely adding this to my "Must Make" list :)

  3. Love love love this recipe!!!!

  4. Thanks Ashley so much for the book tip! It looks like exactly what I could use at the moment.

    And Songe, I'm so glad I got to enjoy your version and get some recipe writing feedback. I can seriously eat this dish for the rest of the year!

  5. I'm making this for the second time tonight:-)


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