During New York winters, I count on the bright orange flesh of butternut squash to cheer me up. I make lots of squash soups—either curried or flecked with fresh herbs—and I pull out my trusty pressure cooker to make a winter squash risotto.
The quick and easy preparation of risotto is one of the pressure cooker's greatest triumphs. Making risotto by the traditional method is a labor intensive affair: about 25 minutes of fairly continuous stirring. The cooker does this job for you in four minutes, leaving you to do only three to five minutes of stirring at the very end. From start to finish, it takes about 15 minutes to prepare risotto, making it the ideal dish for a last-minute supper or casual-chic entertaining.
When making a squash risotto, I like to cut the squash into large and small chunks. The small chunks dissolve to coat the rice. The large chunks retain some shape, adding bright specks of color.
If you don't own a pressure cooker and are thinking of putting one on your wish list, some good choices are WMF, Kuhn-Rikon, and Fissler. These newly designed cookers are 100% safe. Get a 6- or an 8-quart cooker so you can make large quantities of soups and stews and freeze leftovers for a meal down the road. Using a pressure cooker has many benefits. Since it cooks food in 1/3 or less the standard cooking time, the cooker is fuel efficient as well as time efficient. Besides, it's fun!
Risotto with Butternut Squash and Sage
Arborio is the most commonly available of the imported, plump, short-grain rices traditionally used to make risotto. If you use one of the other types of Italian risotto rice (baldo, vialone nanno, or carnaroli) cook for five minutes under pressure rather than four.
It's best to add salt after you've stirred in the cheese, which will add some salt of its own. The risotto tastes best when it's just made. However, the microwave does a nice job of reheating any leftovers.
Heat the oil in a 4-quart or larger cooker. Add the onions and cook over high heat for one minute, stirring frequently. Stir in the rice, taking care to coat it with the oil.
Stand back to avoid sputtering oil, and stir in the wine. Cook over high heat until the rice has absorbed the wine, about 30 seconds. Stir in 3 1/2 cups of the chicken broth, taking care to scrape up any rice that might be sticking to the bottom of the cooker. Add the squash.
Lock the lid in place according to manufacturer's instructions. Over high heat bring to high pressure. Reduce the heat just enough to maintain high pressure and cook for four minutes. Turn off the heat. Quick-release the pressure by setting the cooker under cold running water. Remove the lid, tilting it away from you to allow steam to escape.
Set the cooker over medium high heat and stir vigorously. The risotto will look fairly soupy at this point. Cook uncovered over medium-high heat, stirring every minute or so, until the mixture thickens and the rice is tender but still chewy, usually three to five minutes. If the mixture becomes dry before the rice is done, stir in the remaining 1/2 cup of broth. The finished risotto should be slightly runny; it will continue to thicken as it sits on the plate.
Turn off the heat. Stir in the parmesan, sage, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
Recipe copyright, Lorna Sass, 2008