I hadn't quite realized how long I've been writing the blog -- since 2005, or the commencement of what's become known as the quarter-life crisis. No one wonder I sound so dour. So, now you know. I bitch. I cook. I eat.
But this recipe is a staple in my kitchen, especially now when hard squash our coming out of our ears and things like risotto are precisely what we need. Below is the recipe. For a complete flashback you can read the original post here. Otherwise, enjoy my version of a time machine.
Kabocha Squash Risotto with Crispy Sage, Guanciale, and Kabocha Seeds
I don't remember where I came across this recipe. I didn't find it in any of my cookbooks at home. I suspect it came about during a previous job, also extremely stressful, but luckily supplied with an arsenal of cookbooks that I could bury myself in. There's some charm in using just about every bit of the squash. If you compost the peel, then hey, big karma points to you. You can sub a small pumpkin if kabocha isn't available. And those of you overachievers who have pureed squash or pumpkin lying around, this is SO the dish to put it in.
1 Kabocha squash or small pumpkin * 1/4 pound guanciale or pancetta, diced * a generous handful of fresh sage leaves * olive oil * 1 small yellow onion, chopped * 1 clove garlic, minced * 2 cups carnaroli or arborio rice * a glass of white wine * 6 cups of simmering chicken or vegetable stock * dab or slab of butter * pinch of grated nutmeg * LOTS of parmesan
You can prepare the squash ahead, use squash you've got, or prepare it all in go.
To do the latter: Preheat oven to 375 degrees, get the stock simmering in a pot. Start with the squash. Cut it in half, scrape out the seeds (save these) and then cut into eights. Using a knife peel the skin from the flesh. Cut the flesh into cubes and place in a roasting dish or aluminum packet, sealed. Place in the hot oven and make sure the stock is still simmering.
Now with the lovely crunchy stuff. Combine the guanciale, sage, and seeds in a roasting dish and sprinkle with just a touch of olive oil. Place this in the oven next to the squash and let it do its thing. When you start to smell the guanciale mingling with the sage, check on it and give it a stir. Leave the squash alone. Keep an eye on the crunchy confetti as you tend to the rice. When the bacon's done (about 15 to 20 minutes later) retrieve the chunks out with a slotted spoon and place it all on a paper towel to drain and cool. Let it hang out there until you're done with the rest of the dish.
Saute the onion in a bit of olive oil over medium heat. When it's translucent (you're not browning anything here) add the rice and stir to coat each grain with a slick of olive oil. Add a little more if you need to here. When the rice is shiny and warmed from two minutes in the pan add the glass of wine. Stir and keep stirring until the wine dissolves. Now it's time to use that stock. Add a ladleful and stir.
At this point, everyone has their theories on when to add the next bit of stock and what to do in between. My way—just don't let anything scorch or the starch stick to the pan. I give it a few stirs, but the risotto is very forgiving when you need to talk with a friend about mean bosses, weird office dynamics, and her crazy work load. Repeat this cycle (conversation optional) until you're out of stock. If you get to this point and the rice isn't quite done just add hot water. It won't kill it. Promise.
Have a friend (or you can do this during one of those rounds where you don't stir the rice) mash the now baked squash until it's smooth. Don't bother with the food processor. A fork works wonders. Add this mashed goodness to the rice after the last of the liquids. Grate in some nutmeg just until you smell it and start to feel better. Add the butter and as much parmesan as you'd like. Give it a stir. Cover and just leave it alone for a second.
Now's a good time to set the table and open another bottle of wine. To serve, spoon as much of the risotto as you'd like onto your plate. Sprinkle a handful of the crisped sage, guanciale, and seeds. Add more parmesan. NOTE: If you don't want to bother with the seeds you can leave them out. But we're talking bacon fat roasted seeds. Why the hell not?