Although I touched on my deep devotion to butternut shiitake risotto before (and even posted pictures) I didn’t put up anything in the way of a detailed recipe. It’s become my favorite risotto of all time, and since all my photos are trapped on the inaccessible T drive and I happened to be making it for dinner anyway, I decided it was high time for a breakdown of the wonderful autumn squash and shiitake risotto.
Just because I make this with butternut squash instead of pumpkin, don’t let that stop you. You’ll get much the same result with a sweet pumpkin as you will with a butternut. My experiences in the past have lead me to believe we just don’t have the best roasting pumpkins around here. They just… aren’t that delicious. I’m not sure why, I’ve used only cooking varieties, but I’ve personally had much better results with butternut. But, like I said, if you belong to the Cult of All Things Pumpkin, by all means, roast a pumpkin instead. I personally adore pumpkins and love them in everything–with exception to the pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks. That tastes like an autumn air-freshener to me. You can always used canned for fresh in this recipe, and believe me, when I’ve craved this out of season, I have, and it is damn good, but when you roast your own squash it is damn near transcendent.
Another benefit to using butternut squash is that they are a lot less of a hassle to roast because of their shape, and they have far less seeds and membranes to remove. If you ever have the time and inclination, try both recipes side-by-side and see how much of a noticeable difference exists.
The thing with using butternut squash is that sometimes they taste pumpkiny to me, and in fact many times canned pumpkin in stores is often part pumpkin, part butternut squash. Sometimes, it’s all butternut squash but it’s labeled with a pie on the front and using clever wording so consumers just assume it’s pumpkin. Either way, this tastes like all the best parts of fall to me: warm, aromatic, and deeply comforting.
Although butternut seeds are definitely not as delicious as pumpkin seeds, Isobel really wanted to roast them so we added them to the pan along with the squash. They were first coated by a fine mist of olive oil and one of Isobel’s generous sprinkles of sea salt. We took them out after ten minutes and they were delicious. I was going to use them to garnish the risotto, but we accidentally ate them all.
Dried shiitake mushrooms can be purchased online and are seasonally available at Costco. I’ve also seen them in the Asian section of many grocery stores but they sell you maybe ten or twelve mushrooms for a ridiculous price. Don’t skip the mushrooms, though, even if you don’t want to add them at the end. They do magical things to the broth that simply can’t be duplicated.
- 3 tbs unsalted butter
- 1-2 cups roasted, mashed butternut squash or pumpkin
- 6 cups hot stock
- 1- 1 1/2 cups dried shiitake mushrooms, broken into small pieces
- 1/2 cups shredded Parmesan cheese
- 1 small yellow onion, minced
- 1 1/2 cup arborio rice
- 1/2 white wine or vermouth
- salt and fresh black pepper
- a bit of olive oil
– Cut your butternut or pumpkin into large chunks and remove seeds and fibrous bits. Line a pan with foil and douse with olive oil all over. Roast in a preheated 400 degree F oven for anywhere for 40 minutes to an hour. My squash was large and it took the full hour, but check on it to make sure it doesn’t burn. You will know it is ready when a fork slides in easily and the flesh is yielding to the fork’s touch. If there is any firmness at all, just leave that sucker in there.
– I roast my squash with the skin on for a couple reasons: it protects the area of the squash that would hit the pan, helps keep the squash together after it’s soft and mushy, and is easy to peel off once cooked. Getting the peel off an uncooked squash, however, is tiresome, tedious work. After the squash is roasted and has sufficiently cooled, simply scrape the insides out of the peel and mash with a fork.
– I didn’t know exactly how much uncooked squash would equal the amount I needed of cooked squash, so I overestimated how much I cooked by a lot with the intention of using the leftover roast squash in a creamy butternut soup (which was delicious, by the way!). Not to let the rest of the squash go to waste, I saved it until the next day wherein I sliced it and roasted it into butternut chips.
– Risotto is not hard to make, but if you haven’t made it before it takes some forethought to get the coordination down. You will need a big soup pot or dutch oven to make the risotto but you will also need a sauce pan on a burner next to that to keep the stock hot. Plan ahead so both dishes and the necessary burners are clean and available.
– Pour the stock into the sauce pan and heat over medium heat. In America, 6 cups of stock (I use low-sodium Swanson’s organic chicken broth) equals three regular-sized supermarket cans of stock. Chicken stock is really preferred here, but if you want to go veg and make your own, a deep mushroom stock would be best. After the stock has been added and starts bubbling away in the pan, add your dried mushrooms. Keep this at a low, barely-there simmer while you get on with chopping your onion, measuring out your wine and rice, and grating your cheese. Keep the stock hot, but not boiling, while you do this and the other steps.
– Melt a tablespoon of the butter in the soup pan or dutch oven over medium heat. Cook the onion for about five minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon.
– Add the rice and stir to coat every grain with the glistening butter.
– Add your wine and let it cook down and absorb into the rice.
– Add one ladleful of hot stock to the rice and stir until most of the stock liquid has been absorbed. This process will be repeated, ladleful by ladleful, stir by stir, for about the next twenty minutes. This process will both cook the rice and agitate it so that it releases its creamy starches. I have to watch the clock exactly when I do this, otherwise I tend to want to rush through.
– At about the ten minute mark, start adding the mashed squash a few tablespoons at a time. The heat and constant stirring will cause it to just melt into the creamy squash.
– All of the stock might not be necessary – you might use closer to five cups, maybe, but I didn’t, but don’t forget to fish out all the pieces of mushroom and add them to your rice. And don’t throw out that leftover stock! Freeze it and use it steam vegetables, add to a sauce or toss in a soup.
– Taste to adjust for seasoning (I didn’t need to add salt to mine), and grind lots of black pepper on top.
– After all the liquid is absorbed, the final bits of squash or pumpkin dissolved, and all the mushroom pieces added, stir in the remaining butter and grated Parmesan cheese and serve.
This makes particularly wonderful leftovers, if you are lucky enough to have any.