Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Risotto with Roasted Kabocha Pumpkin or Butternut Squash and Bacon

I made this risotto recipe with a scrumptious Kabocha pumpkin tonight. It is a re- do of a recipe I posted years ago with a few changes in the recipe. 

I Love winter squash! I most often cook with butternut, pumpkin, spaghetti  or acorn squash.  Whenever kabocha is available I love to cook with it. I think it is particularly great in this risotto recipe!

Kabocha squash or Japanese pumpkin, is green speckled and pumpkin shaped.The kabocha has a nice flavor and isn't stringy or watery.  It is great roasted, braised with soy, ginger and garlic or cooked up in tempura. 
 Of course Butternut, would also be good in this risotto. Butternut can't be beat for great texture and color and a small seed cavity.

This risotto has an autumn flair with kabocha squash, butternut or pumpkin along with smoky bacon. The pumpkin and bacon are a wonderfully flavorful combination but it could be made vegetarian without bacon and still be quite tasty.

Risotto is a delicious rice dish that gets its creaminess from the way it is cooked rather than cream or loads of cheese. I made this particular recipe dairy free ( although I added cheese at the table for those who can have dairy )and it was quite creamy! Risotto is quite easy to make although it does take a bit of tending to as it is stirred throughout the cooking process. 

Risotto with Roasted  Kabocha Pumpkin 

or Butternut  Squash and Bacon 

1 small winter squash such as kobocha, pumpkin or butternut ( about 2 1/2  to 3 cups diced)
6 bacon strips, prefer uncured, no nitrates, applewood smoked

1 small Onion, diced
1/2  tsp coriander
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp garlic powder, optional
¼- ½ tsp. red pepper flakes, crushed, optional
½ tsp, smoked paprika or  paprika
Pinch of cinnamon

1 tsp garlic, minced, optional
1 tsp. ginger paste, optional
1-2 TBSP  olive oil or vegetable oil
1-2 TBSP butter 
2 Cups  Arborio Rice

  1  cup  White Wine  

 4 cups veggie or chicken Broth, 
2 cups water

  1/4 Cup  Freshly Grated Parmesiano Reggiano, optional

Salt And Freshly Ground Pepper To Taste

Extra parmesan for topping at table, along with shelled, roasted pepitas if desired
There are two ways you can cook the winter squash.  You may dice and cook it on the  stove,  which is my preferred method for Kabocha squash. You may also roast the squash first which I like to do when using butternut. I will describe the roasting method in the notes**

Begin with a large heavy pot or deep pan and cook the bacon until crispy. 

Pour all of the drippings from cooking bacon into a small bowl. 

Cut the kabocha, squash or pumpkin in  half. Scrape out seeds and if you would like, set aside to roast later and discard any stringy parts.

Cut the squash into slices and then carefully cut away the skin, If you are using kabocha, it'is okay to leave a bit of green skin on, it is edible and will soften up when cooked.

Dice up the squash into small pieces. 

Next heat the pan the bacon was cooked in and add about 2 TBSP of the bacon grease back into pan,  Or if you prefer you may use oil, or oil and butter.

Add the diced squash to pan and brown it.
 Try not to over stir. After a few minutes turn the pieces over and let it cook another couple minutes. 
If needed you may add more bacon grease or oil.
Add diced  onion.Add spices, garlic and ginger. Cook another 4 minutes until squash is nicely browned here and there around the edges and tender  with  some  crispy bits. 
Remove the kabocha or squash mixture to a bowl. 

In small sauce pan, heat up chicken broth or veggie broth and water. Keep on low simmer. Take about  a half cup or so of the squash mixture and add it to the pot of simmering broth , mashing it into the broth to be added as risotto cooks.
Back to the pan you used for the bacon and squash. Add 1 TBSP each of olive oil and butter. Add the two cups of Arborio rice. 
Add wine and continue stirring rice, a figure 8 pattern is recommended, while wine is absorbed. Make sure you stir all areas of the pot so rice will not get mushy. Once most of the wine is absorbed into the  rice add 1 cup or a couple of ladles of hot broth. Repeat this process as each cup of broth is absorbed. 
Continue to add broth until rice is al dente- tender but with a bit of texture to it. If you run low on broth, add water to broth pan to heat before you get to the bottom of broth. This process will take about 20  minutes.
As the last  cup of broth is almost absorbed,  add the rest of the squash mixture and gently blend. Also, crumble or chop bacon and add it as well.
Once rice is at desired consistency. You may add a bit of Parmesan cheese, about a 1/4 cup or so, but if you wish it to be dairy- free it is fine to skip. I also have some grated Parmesan at the table. 
Taste and add desired salt and pepper. I find this does not need a lot of salt due to the bacon.
Serve as soon as possible. If you like, top with cheese or roasted pumpkin seeds    ( I prefer shelled, natural seeds roasted for 10 minutes with olive oil and salt in 350 oven.)

**Roasted pumpkin/squash version - 
After prepping squash, removing seeds and strings and cutting in half,  place cut side down on an oiled baking sheet . You may line pan with foil for ease of cleaning. 
 Place in middle of the oven and bake just until tender and soft. It takes around 30 minutes give or take, but start checking at 20 and keep testing if it is getting softer every 5 minutes, Do not overcook- especially the kobucha or it will get mealy and dry. Butternut may take a bit longer to get tender. 
Remove squash from oven and turn halves over to cool. Once cool enough to handle, remove skin, being carefully to leave most of it large dice sized pieces. You can either slice the squash then carefully cut away skin Or using a large spoon, remove the  the squash out of the shell.   Cut into large chunks, no need to be completely uniform, as some will break up.  I like to use about 2 1/2 -3 cups of squash in this rice.
Dice about half of the roasted squash and brown in the bacon grease for a couple minutes before adding the onion, spices, etc as described above. Take the rest of the squash and add it to the pot of simmering broth , mashing it into the broth to be added as risotto cooks.

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