Few dishes are as decadent luxurious or as versatile as a creamy risotto. Risotto is a huge hit with both diners and chefs worldwide. Its natural creaminess is actually simple to achieve, and it's my personal opinion that you can pretty much turn any ingredient into a spectacular risotto, year-round. As we welcome the month of October with pumpkins popping up everywhere from doorsteps to coffee cakes, a Pumpkin Risotto with Crispy Sage seems absolutely appropriate for the season.
I like to call risotto a labor of love. Contrary to popular belief, it does not need constant, incessant stirring, but does need attention every couple of minutes with a few good swirls of the spoon and a jiggle of the pan. It's that agitation and the addition of warm liquid that draws out the natural starch of the Arborio rice. No extra cream or butter is necessary; properly cooked risotto is perfectly creamy all on its own.
Risotto dishes all start out with this same basic principle, but it's really the finishing that brings the power to the dish. Here, we are going to stir in the pumpkin puree, seasonings and cheese during the last round of cooking liquid. Keep that idea in mind for any flavoring that you like, and risotto can be a staple dinner dish to carry you through the seasons.
Chef's tip: Use a sauté pan with higher sides, or a sauce pan, along with a wooden spoon or heatproof rubber spatula when making risotto.
Pumpkin Risotto with Crispy Sage
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup Arborio rice
5 cups veggie or chicken stock
1/3 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
Ground ginger, pinch to taste
Ground nutmeg, pinch to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
For Crispy Sage:
10-12 fresh sage leaves
2 Tbs. butter
1. Heat olive oil in a medium sauté pan and sweat onions and garlic until translucent over medium-low heat. Do not brown. In a separate pan, warm the stock over low heat.
2. Add the Arborio rice, and stir to coat in the onion & garlic mixture. Add 1 cup of stock, bring to a simmer and stir regularly. Allow the liquid to cook and reduce, while periodically swirling the pan on the burner to prevent rice from sticking. When the liquid has reduced, and little holes (like in wet sand) appear, add another cup of stock and repeat process: Add liquid, stir, swirl, allow to reduce. Continue until rice is tender and creamy, about 25-30 minutes.
3. With the last cup of stock, stir the pumpkin puree, and a gentle pinch each of ground nutmeg and ginger (to taste!), along with the parmesan cheese. Season as desired with salt and pepper.
4. To prepare crispy sage, melt butter in a separate small pan over medium heat. When the butter is foamy, add the sage leaves and cook for about 30 seconds until slightly browned and crispy. Remove from the pan, and place on a paper towel to absorb the excess butter. Once cooled, chop coarsely and stir into the pumpkin risotto.
Jessica Roy is a private chef, specialty caterer and author of foodie blog, Shiso Fresh. Follow her at http://blogs.lowellsun.com/yourpersonalchef.