By admin | December 12, 2011

BY JOANNE BRUNO

Entertaining is tricky stuff, isn’t it? You want to cook something fancy schmancy enough that your guests leave at the end of the night thinking that you’re a domestic goddess.  But not so fancy schmancy that you set your kitchen on fire and/or earn yourself an overnight stay in the ER in the process.

It’s a fine balance.  But thankfully, we’ve got risotto on our side.  Risotto is one of those dishes that sounds like something only a Michelin-starred chef can produce in his kitchen, but it is actually so easy it’s laughable.  Sure, you have to stand over the stove stirring for a while to get it just right but that’s what you have a child/brother/roommate/spouse/significant other for.  Am I right, or am I right?

This specific risotto recipe pairs butternut squash with vanilla, adding a flair of sweetness to this savory dish.  It plays tricks on your mind because the vanilla makes you think it should be sweet but it just isn’t. Your guests won’t be able to figure out your secret ingredient, though they will find that they can’t stop shoveling spoonful after spoonful into their mouths.  Definitely a good problem to have, if you ask me!

Butternut Squash and Vanilla Risotto Recipe

Serves 4 as a main, 6 as a side, adapted from Giada’s Kitchen

Ingredients:
4 cups vegetable broth
1 large vanilla bean
1 medium-sized winter squash (I used delicata), peeled and diced
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped finely
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4-1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp fresh chives, finely chopped

Method:

  1. Put the vegetable broth into a medium saucepan and warm over medium-high heat.  Cut the vanilla bean in half.  Scrape out the seeds and add them to the broth.  Add in the vanilla bean itself.  Simmer then reduce heat to low.
  2. Add the squash to the broth and simmer until it is fork-tender, about 5 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, remove the squash chunks to a dish.  Turn the heat on the broth to low and cover to keep warm.
  3. In a large heavy saucepan, heat the 1/2 tbsp olive oil.  Add in the onion and cook until tender, about 3 minutes.  Add in the rice and cook until coated with oil, about one minute. Add in the white wine and simmer, continuously stirring, until all of the wine has evaporated.  Then, in 1/2 cup increments, add the broth to the rice, only adding more when the previous batch has almost entirely evaporated.  Stir.  Stir.  Stir.
  4. When the rice is tender but still firm to the bite and creamy, turn off the heat.  Mix in the squash and parmesan cheese.  Add salt to taste.  Add chives.

Joanne Bruno is a food writer and third year MD/PhD student.  Find more of her delicious ramblings over at her blog: Eats Well With Others. 

Photos: Joanne Bruno

For more of Joanne’s recipes, follow me on Twitter (@Marcus Cooks)

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