Cooking In Season: Winter Squash and Leek Risotto

This past year for Christmas, Joe gave me a cookbook I’ve been interested in checking out for a while: Six Seasons by Joshua McFadden is all about, yes, cooking in-season vegetables. I immediately read through the cookbook including the spring, early summer, mid summer, late summer, and fall sections. Then I bookmarked all the recipes in the “winter” section that I wanted to try right away.

Risottos often catch my eye on recipe blogs and in restaurants, but too be honest, I often find them boring – the flavor can be one-note and the texture a bit like baby food. Not so with this winter squash and leek risotto. The squash, leeks, wine, cheese, and spices created beautiful layers of flavor and the leeks gave it texture. Joe and I enjoyed this a lot and agreed we should make it often.

Winter Squash and Leek Risotto
adapted from Six Seasons: A New Way With Vegetables by Joshua McFadden

About 8 cups vegetable stock
2 lbs butternut squash
2 tablespoons butter
extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried chili flakes
Kosher salt
2 cups risotto rice, just as Arborio or Carnaroli
1 lb leeks, trimmed split lengthwise into quarters, cleaned, and sliced thinly crosswise
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (yes, freshly grated. The stuff from a canister will not melt smoothly into the risotto as much of it is actually cellulose)
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley (a tablespoon plus a teaspoon dried)*
1 tablespoon chopped sage (or a teaspoon dried)

  1. Put the stock in a soup pot. Peel the squash and split it lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and fibers and add it to the stock. Using a grater with large holes, grate about 2 cups of the flesh and set it aside. Roughly chop the rest of the squash and add it to the stock. Let the stock simmer slowly for at least 30 so it takes on the squash flavor.
  2. Melt the butter in a small glug of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add half the grated squash, the chile flakes, and 1 teaspoon salt and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring frequently, so that the rice becomes slightly darker golden, about 5 minutes. Add the leeks and 1 teaspoon salt and cook over medium-low heat until they are soft and fragrant, another 10 minutes or so.
  3. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the wine, stirring and scraping to deglaze the pan. Simmer until all the wine has evaporated.
  4. Start ladling in enough of the hot stock (leaving the solids behind) so that it just barely covers the rice. Adjust the heat so the liquid bubbles nicely, but isn’t boiling hard. Stir the rice occasionally, scraping the bottom of the pan. When most of the liquid has reduced, add more stock. Continue this process, stirring, until the rice is getting tender but still has a chalky center when you bite into a grain – about 10 minutes.
  5. Add the remaining grated squash and a bit more stock and cook just until the squash is tender. The consistency of the risotto will be quite moist and will stiffen up later when you add the cheese and it cools.
  6. Fold in 1.5 cups of the Parmigiano, the parsley and sage and serve right away. Top with the remaining cheese.

*I know most cooks will insist on fresh herbs, but I find buying fresh almost always means much of it goes to waste

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