Pete Marczyk and Barbara Macfarlane do not leave their work behind when they leave Marczyk Fine Foods and head for their great old Denver house with the big, new kitchen. They often bring some of their market's choicest ingredients home with them, and cook up a feast. This is the second in a series of dinner-party recipes; they'll add one a week until they have a complete, multi-course fall menu.
For week one, Pete made mushroom rugula, a savory mushroom mixture that's rolled in pastry, baked and sliced. This week, Pete whips up roasted squash risotto, "a perfect fall or winter dish," he says, "that's hearty, warming and uses ingredients that are at their peak during the dark months."
The basis of all risotto, says Pete, is the rice.
For this recipe, he uses Acquerello Carnaroli rice, an aged rice that Pete claims could very well be the best rice in the world for making risotto. If you'd like to use it, you can buy it at Marczyk's in ½ kilo tins.
Essentially, says Pete, "Good rice plus good stock and flavorings plus good technique equals good risotto." When making risotto, make sure you use good stock. "Even the best ingredients or garnishes will yield a mediocre risotto if the stock isn't impeccably fresh and delicious," warns Pete. He recommends that before starting the recipe, you first heat and taste your stock, adjusting the flavors as necessary. "You can doctor your stock with a simple addition of fresh veggies such as onions, celery, carrots, a bay leaf and maybe some peppercorns," suggests Pete. "The stock should be brightly flavored, vibrant and slightly undersalted to the taste, since you'll be concentrating its flavor in the cooking process."
2 cups Arborio rice (preferably Acquerello Carnaroli) 1 medium shallot, peeled and minced 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil ½ cup dry white wine 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock 1 acorn or butternut squash (pumpkin would work fine, too) Pinch of nutmeg Fresh thyme or sage 3 tablespoons butter Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese Fresh thyme sprigs for garnish Salt and pepper to taste
Preparing the squash
1. Using a big, sharp knife, cut the squash in half length-wise. 2. Scoop out the seeds, and place the squash, flesh-side down on an oiled baking sheet. 3. Roast the squash in a 350-degree oven for about 30-40 minutes, or until the squash can be easily pierced with a knife. 4. Cool, then scoop out the flesh and run through a food mill or tamis so that it yields ¾ to 1 pound of squash.
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Preparing the risotto
1. In a large, straight-sided sautee pan, add the oil and minced shallot and sweat over medium-low heat until the shallots are translucent. 2. Add rice and stir vigorously, coating the rice with the oil and shallots. 3. Once the shallots begin to barely brown, add wine. 4. Start adding the stock, one-half cup at a time, and stir continuously over medium-low heat. The stock should start to look sauce-y and creamy. "The key to getting a nice creamy sauce is to not add too much liquid, but instead let the rice rub up against itself in a fairly tight emulsion," instructs Pete. "This friction releases some of the starch on the outside of the grains and forms the velvety semi-liquid part of the dish." 5. Taste the rice occasionally, and while it's still chalky, add the squash and some additional stock. 6. Add a few pinches of fresh thyme or sage and the nutmeg. 7. Continue stirring until the rice is cooked through; there should be no trace of chalkiness. 8. Add the butter and about 1/4 cup of stock -- just enough to make the smallest amount run off the bottom of the plate when you plate it. "Less, and it will get gluey," says Pete. "More, and you'll have risotto soup." 9. Taste and adjust the seasonings as necessary and add a little more liquid just before plating. Risotto should slump a bit when it's plated. 10. Garnish with a thyme sprig and serve with a generous handful of freshly-grated Parmesan.
Dry white wines enhance this dish. Pete likes Rieslings or Cortese-based wines like Gavi di Gavi.
For more from Pete, Barbara and Marczyk Fine Foods, visit the market website. And be sure to check out Who's Drinking with Pete at www.marczykfinefoods.com/wine-store/drinking-with-pete/.