Gingered squash risotto with glazed pecans
Makes 6 to 8 servings
Risotto is the perfect ice-breaker when company gathers in the kitchen. While you toss a salad, draft your guests to take a turn stirring the rice. In the process, it will absorb about four times its own volume in liquid, allowing the semi-sweet and fruity Riesling to offer a delicate yet complex quality to the elegant dish. I recommend using Comté cheese, a kind of Gruyère, with superb melting qualities. Make the Glazed Pecans (see recipe) in advance.
5 cups vegetable or chicken stock, or as needed (prepare using stock concentrate, cubes, or powder)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
2 cups acorn squash (or other orange-fleshed winter squash) in ¼-inch dice
1 cup sliced crimini mushrooms (about 3 ounces)
½ cup finely chopped onion
¼ cup finely chopped shallots
1 ½ cups Arborio rice
½ cup Riesling or other medium-bodied, high-acid, semi-sweet white wine
1 cup coarsely chopped radicchio
½ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup freshly grated Comté cheese
½ teaspoon minced fresh ginger, or to taste
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper, or to taste
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Glazed Pecans (see recipe) for garnish
Bring the vegetable stock to a simmer in a small saucepan. Cover and adjust the heat to maintain a simmer.
Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the squash, mushrooms, onion, and shallots; cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are almost tender, about 12 minutes. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter; stir until melted. Add the rice and stir to coat with the butter.
Add the wine and simmer to evaporate. Pour ½ cup of the simmering stock into the rice (maintain a cooking temperature high enough so that the hot broth continues bubbling after it is added to the rice). Cook, stirring constantly, until the stock is absorbed, about 2 minutes. Continue adding the stock, ½ cup at a time, stirring until it is mostly absorbed and evaporated before adding more. (It may not be necessary to use all the stock, or more may be needed.) Cook the risotto, adding stock as needed, until the rice is tender but still firm, about 20 to 25 minutes.
When adding the last ½ cup of vegetable stock, reduce the heat to low; add the remaining ingredients, except the garnish, and stir until the radicchio is wilted. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
Garnish the servings with Glazed Pecans and Fried Sage.
Paulette Mitchell, a culinary instructor, television personality, spokesperson, freelance food writer, and the award-winning author of 13 cookbooks, is known internationally for her quick-to-prepare recipes with gourmet flair. Paulette's most recently published cookbook is "The Complete 15-Minute Gourmet: Creative Cuisine Made Fast and Fresh." She is also the author of "A Beautiful Bowl of Soup" and "The Spirited Vegetarian," which was voted "Best Book in the World on Cooking with Wine" at the 2005 Gourmand World Media Awards. Paulette says that international travel is her favorite source of culinary inspiration.