Monday, November 15, 2010

Roasted Squash, Spicy Chicken and Caramelized Onion Risotto

I know the picture isn't beautiful, but I'm not a photographer, and risotto isn't exactly photogenic.  But trust me, this is a powerhouse of taste!  Sometimes piecing together a meal from the pantry and fridge is good enough, and although perhaps tasty, not going to be called back to the show again anytime soon.  And then there are dishes that after a long day of working hard (me at work, Matt showing the yard and leaves who's boss), come together in such a way as to boggle the mind.  This dish has just enough (but not too much) spicy heat to warm up on a fall day, the creamy comfort of risotto and the sweetness of roasted squash and caramelized onions.

I used a medium delicata squash for this, but use whatever squash you have and like.  You can easily double or triple this dish of course, but as usual, my proportions are for two people.  I'm going to presume, for purposes of efficiency, that you already know the process of making a basic risotto.  If not, please see my Green Apple and Bacon Risotto for instructions.

Take your delicata squash and halve it lengthewise.  Drizzle with oil, generously grind on black pepper, sprinkle on some kosher salt and generously sprinkle with dried thyme.  Roast in a 425 oven for 20 minutes, or until tender.  When cool enough to touch, remove skin and chop into 1/4" chunks

Take a 1/4 pound of boneless skinless chicken thighs and trim off any excess fat (this should be about two thighs of medium size).  Season generously with Northwoods Fire Seasoning (or your personal favorite blend of hot peppers and herbs and salt).  Pan cook over medium heat in a nonstick pan (don't bother adding any oil) until cooked through, about 10 minutes.  When cool enough to touch, chop into 1/4" chunks.

I used more onion than usual in proportion to rice to increase the flavor presence of the onions.  I used a medium onion (the size of a baseball), finely chopped to 2/3 cup of rice.

Start your risotto normally, melting butter and olive oil together, but instead of just sweating the onions until translucent, caramelize them.  Do this slowly, you want golden brown onions, not black or burnt.  When about half of the onions have a caramel color, proceed with toasting the rice, adding the white wine and cooking off, then adding chicken stock incrementally and stirring regularly.  When the risotto is tender and creamy, turn off the heat and stir in the squash, the chicken and a 1/2 cup of grated grana padano cheese or parmigiano.  For this risotto, due to the oil on the squash and the unctuousness of the chicken, I do not add butter at the end, only the cheese.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Sausage and Squash

I got the idea for this from an article on Salon, that involved butternut squash.  I had a beautiful delicata squash from my mother's garden, and a couple hot Italian sausages I took out of the freezer last night for today's lunch.  This is insanely simply, and a perfect fall lunch for two (multiply appropriately for more!).

  • 2 large sausages
  • olive oil
  • 1 Delicata Squash, cut in half lengthwise, seeds and pulp removed, then cut into 1 1/2" slices, do not peel squash
  • pepper
  • kosher salt
  • Set oven to 425.  
  • Put olive oil in an oven-proof pan and heat over medium low heat.  
  • Prick sausages all over with a fork.
  • Slowly brown the sausages on all sides, letting the fat ooze out into the pan.
  • Remove sausages from pan, set aside.
  • Put squash pieces into pan, and cook over medium low heat a few minutes per side.
  • Grind a generous amount of fresh pepper over pieces, and a slight sprinkle of kosher salt.
  • Place sausages back in pan.
  • Put pan into oven for 15-20 minutes
  • Half way through cooking, flip squash and sausages, but if you forget, no big deal.
Serve with some high quality crusty bread.