Risotto. What’s to like? Heavy and dense, it must be consumed lightly or disastrous stomachaches ensue. When prepared improperly, it can become a gluey, gummy mess. My husband, a lover of fresh, light fare, declared risotto “oppressive.” When I recently interviewed a friend of mine, chef Marshall Stelle, I asked him what he liked best about seasonal fall cuisine. He thought about it for a moment and finally said, “Give me a nice warm bowl of pumpkin risotto, and I’m a happy man.”
It got me thinking about risotto, and my perceived inability to cook anything involving rice. I decided to tackle risotto with infinite patience, adding the chicken stock slowly but surely and stirring well for as long as it took to get the rice creamy and perfectly al dente. The hefty dose of white wine gives the dish some acidity and the sweet pumpkin and earthy mushrooms provide nice balance. In the end, it all came together. Chef Marty, this one’s for you.
1 medium pumpkin or squash, about 2 lbs
2 Tbsp heavy cream
Fresh grated nutmeg
¼ cup olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves minced garlic
2 cups Arborio rice
3/4 cup dry white wine
6 cups chicken stock
½ cup grated parmigiano-reggiano
4 Tbsp butter
Fresh chopped sage
Porcini, cremini, chanterelle, and shiitake mushrooms, about 1 lb total, chopped
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut pumpkin in half and scoop out seeds. Put one half aside and peel the other half, cutting into small cubes. Drizzle with olive oil and roast in oven until soft and caramelized, about 45 minutes. Scoop out the flesh and puree the pumpkin half with 2 Tbsp heavy cream, reserving the cubes. Season puree and cubes with salt, pepper, and freshly grated nutmeg to taste.
Heat butter in a large skillet and brown the mushrooms in batches. Don’t crowd the pan to ensure they get nicely browned. Set aside and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
Pour chicken stock in a saucepan and keep warm over low heat. Add olive oil to a large skillet or Dutch oven. Sweat onions over medium heat for 2-3 minutes and add the minced garlic. When translucent and fragrant, add the rice and stir to coat. Cook for a few minutes until outer edge of the rice is translucent, but rice is still pearly white in the middle.
Add white wine and continue cooking, stirring often, until the rice absorbs all the liquid. Add 3 cups of stock, enough to cover the rice completely, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, until the liquid is absorbed. Add remaining stock, one cup at a time, stirring often until the liquid is absorbed. The rice should be al dente – tender but still chewy, and most of the liquid should be absorbed.
Stir in the puree and the diced pumpkin. Turn heat to low and add the sautéed mushrooms and sage. Add the parmigiano-reggiano cheese and butter, stirring well to give the dish a nice, creamy finish. Season with salt and pepper to taste, spoon into bowls and enjoy with a nice tall glass of Oatmeal Stout.
by Amanda Jones