I’m somewhat grateful to be quarantined (and on spring break!) because it means I have as much time as I want to pursue the things I’m interested in. One of my new pursuits has been baking, inspired by my deep love for the Great British Baking Show, so be sure to check out my last recipe for apple and pistachio tarts if you haven’t already. Another new pursuit of mine has been trying all sorts of new culinary endeavors that I would have shied away from before quarantine. Today’s challenge was risotto, something I’ve been wary of ever since I learned it needed half an hour of constant stirring.
Don’t fear risotto, though – most traditional recipes are more complicated than they need to be, and there are a few easy tricks I learned during my research (aka reading a lot of recipes) that make the process so much less daunting. First, you don’t need to heat your broth separately, as many traditional recipes dictate. Instead, you can add the broth cold without the dish suffering for it. Second, you can bake risotto in the oven instead of standing over a hot stove for thirty minutes. That gives you time to watch more Great British Baking Show! Third, since risotto is basically just creamy rice, you can customize it endlessly. Most recipes call for traditional Italian ingredients like parmigiano reggiano, rosemary, and chicken stock, but guess what? I’m in quarantine and I don’t have any of that. Instead, I made a 20 minute veggie broth from herbs, garlic, and onions. I topped my risotto with cheddar cheese. I stirred in an assortment of vegetables I had to use up. As a nice gesture, I fried some shallots as well. And you know what? It’s spectacular.
In fact, this risotto kind of tastes like mac ‘n’ cheese, albeit very adult mac ‘n’ cheese. It’s creamy and rich, but the kale and squash lighten it up. I was afraid it might not turn out well (after all, I had a very strange mix of ingredients to work with), but I shouldn’t have worried! This dish is good enough to add to a weekly rotation, maybe with slightly different veggies and cheeses each time. I highly recommend you try it using whatever you may have in your quarantine fridge!
NOTE: I’ve included a recipe for quick veggie broth since I didn’t have any pre-made broth to work with, but if you do, then feel free to use that instead. This risotto would be great with chicken broth.
Baked Risotto with Kale, Delicata Squash, and Fried Shallots
- 6 cups water
- 1 medium yellow onion chopped
- 5 garlic cloves smashed and peeled
- 1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley lightly packed
- 1 ½ tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tbsp worcestershire sauce optional
- 3 shallots peeled and diced
- 4 tbsp high heat fat like bacon fat or vegetable oil
- Salt to taste
- 1 delicata squash
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 4 tbsp butter divided, salted or unsalted
- 1 small-medium yellow onion chopped
- Garlic 6 small or 3 large cloves, minced
- 1 bunch fresh kale stripped from stem, roughly torn
- 1 ½ cups arborio rice rinsed
- 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 3 tsp fresh thyme leaves
- 1 cup freshly shredded cheese parmesan, cheddar, etc.
- 1 cup water, broth, or a mixture
- Salt and pepper to taste
Vegetable Broth (if using pre-made broth, proceed to next section)
- Combine all the broth ingredients in a medium saucepan. Cover with a lid and set over high heat until boiling. Once boiling, lower the heat and position the lid so it's slightly askew, allowing some steam to escape. Simmer for 20 minutes.
- Strain the broth into a separate bowl and discard the solids. You should have about 4.5 cups.
- Add the fat to a small saucepan and heat over medium-high until very hot. Add the shallots and stir frequently until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Lower the heat to medium-low and continue to fry, stirring often, until deep brown and crispy.
- Remove the shallots from the heat and drain on a plate lined with paper towels. Sprinkle with salt.
- Preheat the oven to 400º F and position a rack in the center.
- Cut both ends off the squash and cut in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds, then cut crosswise into thin half-moon shapes.
- Add to a baking sheet and toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
- Roast until caramelized and deep brown, about 15-20 minutes. Flip the squash after 10 minutes.
- Lower the oven heat to 350º F.
- Heat one tbsp of the butter in a large pan or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the onion and garlic and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the kale, a pinch of salt, and an additional tbsp of butter and sauté until the kale is deep green and slightly wilted.
- Add the rice, broth, and thyme, stirring to combine. If using a dutch oven, transfer to the oven. If using a pan, pour contents into an oven-safe dish and then transfer to the oven.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the rice is creamy and cooked al dente.
- Add the water or broth, cheese, and shallots, then stir until well-combined, 1-2 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper (I used a lot of salt!).
- Top with the delicata squash and serve hot.