Savory pumpkin, sweet maple, peppery arugula, creamy mozzarella, and salty parmigiano-regiano. Is your mouth watering? It should be. There are many fall dishes out there, in fact fall recipes are some of my favorite to try. However there is one dish that is the ultimate autumn nibble, and this is it.
We all have moments where we make a meal and think "damn...that's so good." However there's a very rare moment as a home cook when you eat something and think, "wow, that is restaurant quality." This is going to be one of those moments for you.
Pumpkin Risotto may sound "basic" but this is anything but. The recipe comes from Chef Michael Romano at Union Square Cafe and can be found in their cookbook. Risotto, while time consuming is not difficult. This one has a secret weapon that turns it from fine food to five star dining. Dinner party? Romantic meal? Tasty dinner for one? Doesn't matter, make this!
If you follow this blog you are aware of my obsession with all things Ina Garten. She taught me to cook and for that I (and bf) will be eternally grateful. As I have gone further into the rabbit hole of Ina's world, I have realized that she also draws recipes and inspiration from others. She published a blog post of her favorite cookbooks. I made note and now any time I'm at the bookstore and spot one, this is how I came across theUnion Square Cafe cookbook.
Last holiday seasonI made their bar nuts, and will be making them again this year since they were so popular with friends and family. The first recipe I tried however was this Pumpkin Risotto. I was looking for something "fallish" to make for dinner on Halloween while we gave out candy. At first it seemed complicated, but having made it once I assure you it's worth the effort and isn't all that hard. The secret? Pumpkin broth! Most pumpkin risottos call for you to use chicken broth. This one has you make a pumpkin broth and use that in the risotto. You may be tempted to just skip it and use chicken- don't!
To save time you could make the broth in advance and store it! It would also be good in stews and fall soups.
Here's what you need for the broth:
1 tbs butter
1 onion, 2 carrots, 1 celery stalk (the whole thing leaves and all) peeled and thinly sliced
1 leek washed and sliced (just the white and light green parts)
2 cups canned puree (I always end up using two cans which is just a little more, but more pumpkin is never bad, right?)
8 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp whole black peppercorn
4 allspice berries
1/4 cinnamon stick (honestly I use a whole stick but a small one, who has time to cut a cinnamon stick)
2 Tbs maple syrup
This is a recipe that I would definitely recommend mise en place for...which is a fancy way of saying chop everything and measure out all your ingredients in advance. I use a bowl and just put all the veggies in it and then add all the spices to a small cup and keep them all ready to go.
The broth itself actually couldn't be easier. In a stockpot (or something similar):
Melt the butter in the sauce pan and then add the veggies. Saute until tender, about 10 minutes or so. Once the veggies are tender, stir in the pumpkin puree and cook for about 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock, spices, and reduce the heat and simmer covered for 45 minutes. When its done you will have the yummiest smelling kitchen imaginable. Who needs a fall candle?
At this point you need to strain the broth through a mesh strainer. You're not making puree so you're not smushing the veggies through, just the liquids. What remains will be pumpkin stock.
Now it's time to actually make the risotto! This is not a quick dinner (in case you were still thinking that it is).
Olive oil (about 1/4 cup)
1 3/4 cups Aborio rice
1 1/2 cups of cubed fresh pumpkin (or other squash)*
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tbs minced sage
2 cups of arugula washed, the original recipe says to chop it, I don't but you do you
1/3 cup diced mozzerella
salt and pepper
1/4 cup parmigiano-regiano (I actually use Romano cheese instead because it's saltier, but again you should use what you like)
3 tbs butter
Phew, it's a lot of ingredients! It's worth it though (and not all that complicated)!
To actually make the risotto, add olive oil to the pan with the rice and cut pumpkin. Stir until everything is coated in oil. Add the white wine, stirring until it is absorbed. From here on out ladle the pumpkin broth in 1/2 cup at a time. Each time stir until it is fully absorbed before adding more liquid. I'm not going to lie, this process is tiring and will definitely require some arm muscles! You can get a workout in while you cook! Don't cheat this process because its what releases the starch in the rice and creates the creamy risotto texture.
Finally, once your risotto is al dente (about 20 minutes or so) stir in the remaining ingredients; sage, arugula, mozzarella, salt, pepper, and cheese. Once its all mixed in, stir in the butter for some added richness. Serve hot with more cheese sprinkled on top.
I make this every year to use the leftover gourds and pumpkins and I'm never disappointed. You could add chicken or another protein if you like to make it more of a complete meal. You can also serve it is as a side with dinner. It's elegant enough to get a spot at your Thanksgiving table, but hearty enough for Sunday supper.
Do you use your pumpkins and gourds to cook with?