Sunday, January 22, 2012

Pumpkin-Sage Brown Rice Risotto


1) You need to use short-grain rice, or you're screwed.

Lies. There's no need to use "short grain" or glutinous (sticky) Japanese brown rice, any rice will do. The trick is to soak rice beforehand for at least 35 min to 1 hour, so that it becomes more brittle. (I'm sure there's a better explanation as to why soaking beforehand works, chemistry-wise...anyone?)

2) It will take you like, forever and ever to make.

Nope. I could have had a beautiful dish for 2 at about 40 minutes, but I made a big batch, so it took me about an hour.

3) You have to keep stirring CONSTANTLY.

Uhhh...I surfed the net, chatted, and got up to stir every 2-4 minutes. And the bottom of my pot did not burn in the least.

4) You have to use cream/dairy or you'll never get the desired consistency.

You could totally make this with just the broth. I didn't add the dairy until towards the end, and it was delicious even in the pre-dairy stages. I will try to experiment without any dairy at all next time for a super-healthy alternative (almond milk, I'm looking at you.)

As I'm sure many of you know, risotto is a heavenly Italian dish that is cooked by adding liquid slowly to rice until it is absorbed, so that the rice achieves a beautiful, dreamy consistency.

Dreamy consistency = ultimate comfort food, and with the puree pumpkin, gives an extra health kick.

What You'll Need:

-Any kind of brown rice

-4 tbsp oil or butter

-1 medium onion, finely chopped

-3-5 cloves garlic, minced

-4-5 cups HOT chicken or veggie broth (I used veggie)

-1/4 milk (2%, whole, or cream) (I used cream...because we had some and I couldn't resist.)

-1 bunch sage or thyme, or have a party and use both (!), separated of stems and chopped finely

-cayenne pepper, to taste

-1-2 tsp allspice or your favourite woody spice mix

-1/2 cup - 1 cup pureed pumpkin or squash (just not spaghetti squash!)

-white wine or sherry (optional)

-1/4 cup grated or shaved cheese (I used parmesan, but next time will use a sharper cheese like asiago)

What To Do:

1) Roast your pumpkin or squash, slice in half and lying flesh-side down on a cookie sheet lined with foil paper, rubbed with a bit of olive oil, at 350 on Bake for about 35 minutes.

2) Soak your rice for at least 35 minutes.

3) Get your broth heating. Use 1-2 boullion cubes and water, or your homemade broth in a pot and start heating up on low heat. If you use cold broth, you will slow down the cooking process.

4) Put a separate, medium-sized pot on low-medium heat on your stove, and slowly melt your butter/oil in the pot. Add your chopped onions, and slowly cook over low-medium heat until the onions become transluscent (not brown or crispy!), should take about 5-7 minutes. Keep adding butter/oil to taste (and, err, moderation). If you're using wine or sherry, now's the time. Add the garlic and toss until fragrant. Add the spice mix and stir.

5) Pour the rice in to the pot and stir to coat. Raise the heat to medium, and let the rice fry in the butter mixture for 1 minute.

6) Add your first cup of warm broth to the mixture, leaving the pot of rice uncovered. Stir, and wait until the broth has evaporated. Keep stirring every 2-4 minutes. How's your pumpkin coming along?

7) Repeat Step 4 until you get to your 3rd cup of broth. You'll notice that your rice will begin to split. Now, add your desired dairy and see how you feel about it. Do you need more? Less?

8) Add your sage, thyme. Also, is your pumpkin done yet ? :) probably. Take it out of the oven and let it cool, best on a cookie crack if you have one.

9) While the rice is absorbing the last bit of broth, and your pumpkin has cooled, depending on how smooth you'd like your pumpkin, transfer to a food processer and puree. Add it to your risotto and stir.

10) Stir in your grated cheese, turn off the heat, and remove your risotto from the element.

11) Serve with a sprinkle of paprika or cayenne and a sage leaf, or thyme sprig.

...And bam. Ultimate, guilt-free comfort food.

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