Squash Risotto with Maple Cheddar

I really don’t get what psychs people out so much about risotto. Is it the fancy Italian name? Or maybe it’s the fact that every time you see someone try to make it on Chopped, they fail miserably. See the thing is, it’s really no more difficult than any other rice. Even the whole “you have to stand there stirring it – you can’t take your eyes off of it or else it will be ruined” is a total myth.
Do you know another myth related to risotto? That it has to be ridiculously unhealthy, full of butter, cream and cheese. Sure you can make it that way, but there’s really no need. The great thing about arborio rice is that it is super starchy. When the rice releases this starch it thickens up the stock that you add, becoming creamy and delicious all on its own. Typically I add a couple handfuls of cheese just for some extra flavour. Another tip; go for the stinky stuff so you only need a bit to pack a punch.
All you need to do is add some vegetable in there and it’s virtually health food. Skip the cheese and you would even have yourself a vegan dinner. See, not scary at all!
Squash Risotto
Squash Risotto
Squash Risotto with Maple Cheddar
Serves 4-6
1 small acorn squash, peeled and diced
2 shallots, sliced thinly
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup arborio rice
4-5 cups vegetable broth
1 cup grated maple cheddar cheese (if you can’t find maple cheddar, use normal cheddar and add a tablespoon or two of maple syrup)
salt and pepper, to taste
In a large saute pan over medium heat, cook the squash until lightly golden, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the shallots and garlic, cooking until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Once you can smell them, add the arborio rice. Essentially you want to toast it off so stir it in with the squash and aromatics and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes.
Now you can start adding the stock. People say that you should add it ladle by ladle, stirring constantly until each addition is absorbed before adding any more. I’m here to tell you that it’s not worth your time.  Your risotto won’t be any creamier if you add the stock in 20 additions vs. adding it in 2 additions. With this much rice, I add my vegetable stock in two additions, no more, no less. Well unless it is still a tad al dente after two additions, then I will add a splash more. But that’s it!
So once the rice is toasted, add in about half your vegetable stock (2 cups). Stir it to incorporate and put the lid on, leaving a tiny crack for steam to escape. Leave it alone, go set the table, fold some laundry, whatever you need to do. In about 7 to 10 minutes you will see that all of the liquid is absorbed, at which time you can add the second half, 2 more cups of vegetable stock. Another 7 to 10 minutes and the rice should be cooked. If it’s not and you would like it softer, add a final splash of veg stock or even water. Cook another 3 to 5 minutes over medium heat as before and you should be good to go.
Add in the cheese (or cheese and maple syrup if you cannot find maple cheddar). Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with some fresh bread and a nice glass of wine. Who knew risotto could be so easy?
Squash Risotto
Squash Risotto

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