From America's Test Kitchen Season 6: Cooking with Squash
Butternut squash and risotto should make a perfect culinary couple, but too often the squash and rice never become properly intertwined. The squash is reduced to overly sweet orange blobs or the whole dish becomes a gluey squash paste. We wanted to find a way to integrate the flavor of the squash with the risotto but still preserve their individual personalities—to create a creamy, orange-tinged rice fully infused with deep (but not overly sweet) squash flavor.
We started with our basic risotto recipe, then addressed the squash. When added to the rice at the beginning, the squash ended up as squash paste; if we waited until the end, it never integrated properly with the rice. We decided to brown the diced squash in a skillet (oven- roasting made it too sweet) and set it aside while we sautéed the aromatics and toasted the rice. We added only half of the squash with the first addition of liquid. This squash broke down somewhat during cooking and infused the rice with its flavor; the remaining squash, added when the rice was finished, retained its shape and texture. Chicken broth cut with water was the basis of the liquid, but we simmered the squash seeds and fibers in it to intensify the squash flavor. And white wine balanced the squash’s sweetness. This creamy risotto had deep squash flavor and pleasing textures.
Serves 4 as a main course or 6 as a first course
Infusing the chicken broth with the squash's seeds and fibers helps to reinforce the earthy squash flavor. We found that a 2-pound squash consistently yields a cup or so more than the 3 1/2 cups in step 1; this can be added to the skillet along with the squash scrapings in step 2. To make this dish vegetarian, vegetable broth can be used instead of chicken broth, but the resulting risotto will have more pronounced sweetness.