Bacon, Squash & Chestnut Risotto
I just love Jamie Oliver. I used to watch Oliver's Twist and I would get hungry just listening to him talk about food. (It's probably the accent!) I can remember drooling over the risotto he cooked. It sounded so good that I even tried it myself, carefully watching and following his directions.
I did like the way my Risotto turned out. I didn’t really love standing over the stove and stirring it though. Once in a while maybe, but not very often. And never for company. It just seemed too involving and would end up with me interrupting everyone else’s conversation and telling them what to do while I was at the stove stirring a Risotto which might well turn out overcooked and gummy anyway. No thanks! Risotto was more of a solitary pursuit, just between me and Jamie.
Enter Patricia at Technicolor Kitchen. She posted Bacon, Butternut Squash and Basil Baked Risotto that sounded wonderful and, once again, I had hope. Originally this recipe came from Donna Hay magazine and what a delightful idea – put the risotto in the oven, close the door and don’t look again until the rice is done. Stir in the extras, which could reasonably be prepared ahead, and voila! Dinner is ready.
That seemed too good to be true. I wanted to try it. On the spot. Patricia’s recipe called for butternut squash. I had two acorn squash on hand. Patricia’s recipe called for bacon and I had none. Oh well, it’s Lent, who needs it? I remembered that I had a similar recipe of Jamie’s that called for pumpkin and chestnuts. And I still had a bag of Trader Joe's chestnuts in the freezer, leftover from Thanksgiving. That would add some texture and flavor. I had the basil and Parmesan and Arborio rice. I decided we were good to go.
First Try - What I Learned
I put the risotto in the oven. I roasted the acorn squash. I was delighted to find how easy it was to prepare the frozen chestnuts from Trader Joe’s. ( Next year I will definitely look for them and actually use them in the fall.) Easy peasy!
When the risotto was done I stirred it all together and ….well…. that’s what I get for skipping the bacon. It was okay. I ate it… for days. No one else at my table was too excited about it. There were two things I learned from that adventure, don’t skip the bacon and cut the recipe in half. There are only two or three eating at my table most evenings and half is just about enough to serve three.
Second Try - Wow!
I went to the market and tried again. This time I used a butternut squash, as Patricia's’s recipe called for, I used the bacon and I still added the chestnuts. I cut the recipe in half which made it just the right size to fit in my cute little Le Creuset 2-Quart Heart Casserole, a nice touch for February. And, WOW! This time it was delicious. I even forgot to add the Parmesan until after I had taken a bite and it was delicious anyway. And it was still wonderful not to have to stir.
Bacon, Squash and Chestnut Baked Risotto
7 oz butternut squash, chopped
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
a pinch of sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
4 slices bacon
3/4 cup Arborio (or risotto) rice
2 1/4 cups (18 oz) vegetable stock
2 tablespoons torn basil leaves
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
4 oz frozen chestnuts from Trader Joe's
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the butternut squash in a bowl. Add the oil, sprinkle with the sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Toss to coat. Place the tossed squash on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until tender. Set aside.
Meanwhile, prepare chestnuts according to package directions. Let cool. Peel the chestnuts and coarsely chop them. Set aside.
Fry the bacon, or cook it in the microwave between paper towels, until crisp. Let it cool and break it into small pieces.
Place the rice and stock in a Le Creuset 2-Quart Heart Casserole, or other covered 2 quart casserole dish, and stir to combine. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. (The rice should be al dente and most of the stock should be absorbed.)
Remove from the oven and add the remaining ingredients. Stir to combine. Serve immediately.