The Week of Gourd: Hubbard Squash Risotto

Blue Hubbard

Image by SamH one via Flickr

So the Week of Gourd continues.  They’re all over your grocery store, in season, inexpensive, but perhaps a bit of a mystery.  One of the many varieties to check out is the pretty blue Hubbard squash.  I’ve been told they can grow to enormous sizes, but mine was around three pounds (only?) and I used half for this recipe.   This is a seriously thick-skinned squash, good for keeping over the winter. 

Have a good sharp knife at the ready and some nerves of steel.  As for this one, I got the knife started, it got lodged and I ended up banging the squash on the cutting board to loosen the knife.  Not exactly the super technique, but I’m not the only one who fights with these beasts. (I know Hades is reading this, shaking his head, vowing to not leave me alone next time with a hard winter squash and a butcher knife.)   But I’ve heard of chefs using cleavers and hammers.  Do not be deterred!   I got the knife out, and broke the squash in two, removed the seeds and pulp, rubbed both sides with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted in a 350 degree oven for an hour while the tornado sirens were going off.  Midwest living!  Persephone 1, squash 0.  When the squash was tender, I let it cool a bit, then took a large spoon and scooped out all the orange flesh from one half.  I’m still pondering what to do with the other half.  I’m sure you’ll hear about it soon enough.  Without further ado, tonight’s recipe:

Roasted Hubbard Squash and Rosemary Risotto

2 T olive oil

1/2 onion, finely chopped

1 sprig rosemary, leaves removed and chopped

1 1/2 cups Arborio rice (I like Campanini, if you remember)

Splash of vermouth, I like Noily Prat

Flesh from 1/2 of a roasted 3 pound Hubbard squash

12 to 14 cups vegetable stock (Today’s was skins from the onion, four small tomatoes, a carrot, green tops from a shallot, a very small bell pepper, some ginger, peppercorns, bay leaf, the pulp and seeds from the squash and some other flotsam and jetsam.  Don’t take this as a specific edict, take what veg you’ve got in the fridge, put it in a pot, cover it with cold water, turn the heat to medium and let it steep for 30 minutes at least.  Do this first, then do the rest of your prep.  I let it continue to cook while I make the risotto, then if I have any left, I’ve got homemade stock in the fridge at the ready!  Woot!)

For garnish: Parmesan shavings, fried Hubbard squash seeds dusted with mace

In a large pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil and add the onion and rosemary.  Cook three to five minutes to soften. 

Add in the rice, cook for another two minutes.

Deglaze the pan with a splash of the vermouth, about 1/3 of a cup.  Stir until it evaporates.  Add in the roasted squash.  Don’t worry if you have a few larger chunks, the squash will continue to cook for another 30 minutes or so, breaking down into nice pieces.  Stir to combine.

Add in two or three ladlefuls of strained stock.  I use a small fine mesh sieve for this.

Stir constantly, until it thickens, then add in two more ladlefuls. 

Continue this process of adding stock and stirring constantly until the rice is tender and has developed a creamy, starchy sauce; about 25 minutes. 

PK tip: This risotto is a bit fussier about sticking than most because of the squash added in early on.  Make sure you are judicious about stirring.  Just prior to serving, add an extra ladle of stock to loosen it up a bit, because risotto is notorious for thickening up quickly.  You want a nice, saucy (not runny, eww) risotto.

To serve, ladle into warm bowls, top with shavings of parmesan and a few fried Hubbard squash seeds if you’ve got the energy, if not, forget it!  You just made risotto, rock star.

Since Cherub loves risotto so much, tonight’s playlist included one of her dancing favorites, I Feel It All, by Feist.

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