The problem with having a 2 person household is that while we’re happy to have leftovers for lunches the next day, some things do and others don’t reheat well. Fortunately risotto is one of those things that tastes almost as yummy the next day but it’s nice to have a one and done meal as well every once in a while even though I’ve been known to eat only risotto for many a meal quite happily. Part of the enjoyment, besides all that creamy starch is the fact that risotto is quite easily the chameleon of the culinary world. Changing out the “filling” and keeping the rice, fat, broth, and wine the same will give you different but equally as satisfying eating experiences. And you get to clean out your veggie drawer. Which brings me back to that 2 person household dilemma. You see, since the average kabocha squash is 2-3 pounds in size, one squash will go a long way at Chez Nous. One kabocha has been turned into 3 different meals: かぼちゃの煮物と蕎麦 Kabocha simmered in dashi broth with soba noodles, 焼きそば Yakisoba, and risotto (I toyed with turning it into a savory flan with blue cheese but that will have to be a recipe for another post). But despite its humble and frugal re-useful beginnings, this risotto is something that I could eat again and again. Roasting the squash before adding it to the risotto is not just a necessity given its long cooking time compared to the other ingredients but also brings out sweet caramel tones which contrast with the slightly bitter astringency of the leeks. The beet greens (re-used from another dish) add another barely bitter green note and some welcome color as well. I didn’t include mushrooms this time but the light, fruity taste and toothy texture of some chanterelles could easily transform this from a supporting side dish to a full-fledged meal. Another benefit of a one and done 2 serving meal is that if your veggie bin foragings are not as yummy as you had hoped, there’s no guilt over “accidentally” misplacing the leftover container….
1) Keep a pot of simmering broth on the stove behind the burner you’re using to cook the risotto so you can easily dump a ladleful into the risotto pan cuz it’s actually the simmering broth that cooks the risotto, plumping up those short fat grains into tender toothy rice. I like Better Than Bouillon Mushroom Base when I’m using a vegetarian stock as it provides a lot of flavor (Dare I say meaty?) and doesn’t taste tinny like many commercial vegetable broths. If you have the time and inclination, by all means use homemade.
2) While you do need to stir it frequently, most of the work occurs in the last 5 minutes when the majority of the starches have leached out of the risotto creating a creamy but sticky liquidy matrix that can get stuck to the bottom of your pan. The physical stirring is also what separates the starches from the rice allowing them to create that characteristic creamy, sticky, starchy texture of risotto.
3) Not just any old rice will do. Since you want a creamy, glutinous rice mixture at the end, you need to use rice that will absorb broth while releasing its starches. That said, this won’t work with a low starch, long grain rice like jasmine.
2 leeks white parts only, finely chopped
3/4 c arborio rice
2 tsp + 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1/4 c dry white wine (I used Chardonnay)
3 c low-salt vegetable or chicken broth (I used mushroom stock)
1/4 of a medium-sized kabocha squash (~1 1/2 c), peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
8-10 stalks beet greens, thick veins removed and torn into 1-inch pieces
Preheat oven to 450F. Oil a small roasting or baking pan with 2 tsp olive oil. Roast squash for 10 minutes then flip squash and roast for another 8 minutes.
While squash is roasting simmer broth in a small ~1-2 quart saucepan. I like to use the burner right behind my risotto pan so it’s easier to ladle in the broth.
Heat butter and remaining tbsp olive oil over medium heat in large sauté pan or skillet with a wide 2-3 inch lip till foam subsides and butter starts to brown ~2-3 minutes. Sauté leeks till soft and golden ~ 2-3 minutes. Increase heat to med-hi and mix in rice till coated with butter and oil. Sauté for 1-2 minutes which will toast it and add to the flavor (you may notice a nutty aroma as the rice toasts).
Add wine and stir till evaporated. Mix in beet greens. Pour in 1/2 c of broth and stir into rice till all of the broth is absorbed by the rice. Continue with remaining broth, 1/2 c at a time, till rice is tender ~ 20 minutes. As the rice cooks it will plump up as it absorbs the broth and releases its starches creating a sticky liquidy matrix. Classically risotto should have a thick liquidy consistency when finished so that it will slowly spread over a plate, not clump together like mashed potatoes but not to worry, this can be fixed with a few tbsp of broth. If your rice is still too firm and you’ve run out of broth just add simmering water 1/2 c at a time as you did with the broth. I like to add the squash when I have about half of the broth left so that it softens some more with the risotto giving it a golden orangey color but you can also add it at the end when you add your parmesan as it will be completely cooked with the roasting.
Remove from heat and stir in parmesan. Many classic preparations also have you add a couple tbsp of butter at this point but I feel it tastes plenty rich without. Makes 2 servings.