Recently I picked up a butternut squash at the grocery store for a whopping $2.67 because I was 100% jonesing to quasi-recreate (more about the quasi in a bit) this risotto that I learned to make while at a class with my mom put on by the Sorrentino’s group.
I was unaware of what I was getting into really, because I had no idea this sweet little butternut squash was actually not that little, and thus starts a saga of how I’m making several (yep, these are enough to feed a crowd) meals using this delish little gourd.
As I said, this is based on a recipe from the Sorrentino’s Group. It’s actually pretty darn close BUT I say it’s ‘based’ because I actually use canned shrimp rather than the gorgeous, huge prawns they provided us with at the class, more onion, more garlic, probably more squash and a little more rice. As I was at the store I had an internal war with myself where I was like, but… those prawns. They were gorgeous, they were delicious… get them! Ultimately my good sense won out and I used the canned shrimp I had at home but I want to fully disclose that:
a. This is not an original recipe (is there really ever anymore?)
b. No chef said to me, yes, eat that canned shrimp. That’s 100% me and I don’t think the chef would approve.
Now that that is out of the way…
Risotto with Butternut Squash and Shrimp
$1.89 per serving, $7.59 serves four
1/3 of a medium butternut squash ($0.83)
2 small garlic cloves ($0.18)
half an onion ($0.12)
1 and a third cup arborio rice ($0.87)
A pat of butter ($0.31)
1 box Chicken Broth ($0.98)
5 sprigs Thyme ($0.20)
1 can of shrimp ($4)
salt and pepper to taste
1/8th of a lemon ($0.10, and optional for finishing)
Start first by getting all of your fresh ingredients prepped, this is something my mum taught me to do and as a relatively novice cook that always tries to take on tasks too large, it helps a ton. Your onions and garlic should be finely chopped and the onions can be put in a pot with olive oil. Just set that garlic aside. Next, wash and strip all of those thyme leaves off the stems and set aside as well. Next comes the tougher part- the butternut squash. Take roughly one third of the squash, peel it and dice the squash into small cubes, very small. I would say no bigger than the pink eraser tip of a pencil if you can help it. Now set that aside as well in a bowl and get ready to cook!
Turn on the fire under those onions and olive oil and add some salt, pepper and thyme. We were taught to season every time you add something to the pot- a little here, a little there. You want to soften these onions down about half way and then add the garlic and soften it down as well. You want to wait until this is good and softened and truly cooked, then add in the rice and stir to coat with the garlic-onion-olive oil mix. Now, just leave it for a minute. Watch it, stir it so nothing gets stuck, but you need to let it “toast”, a concept that still evades me a bit. Basically, the edges of your rice need to go translucent while the interior of the grain is still white, so you should be able to tell. Make sure it stays coated in the onion mixture and a generous amount of oil (or butter if you decide to swap that out) while it toasts. Apparently if you don’t toast your rice, it never really gets properly soft so I must be doing ok.
Once you hit that nice and toasty place, you have two options. If you’re feeling a bit flush or have some wine kicking around, you can deglaze the pan with about half a cup of white wine. If not (or if you don’t drink/cook with alcohol), deglaze the pan with the same amount of the chicken stock we’re using later! Let that bubble/cook down and then add in the butternut squash because it’s going to cook along with the rice, braising is how they called it in the class.
Next, add a ladle-ful of stock and some seasonings, and let it cook off. Repeat. Stir. Try to be patient. Repeat again. Taste. Think about life. Repeat. Are you getting the pattern here? This dish is going to be ready when its ready, you’re just along for the ride. Once you get to the point where the rice tastes cooked and feels cooked on your teeth, the butternut squash will be cooked if you cut it to an appropriate size. Take that can of shrimps and strain the water out, then rinse them and make sure they’re pretty dry.
Stir the shrimp in with the last of your thyme and let them warm for a moment, then turn off the burner and stir in the butter you’ve had set aside, and serve!