Monday, April 12, 2010

Mission Cookbook: Risotto with Acorn Squash

I don't usually do two posts in one day, but I am so excited about what I made for this round of Mission: Cookbook that I just couldn't wait.

Friday night while we were hanging out, I told Steve to go ahead and pick out a cookbook. He asked what course I was aiming for and I responded that it would all depend on what cookbook he picked out. He headed to the shelf and within two seconds had chosen the orange volume that I have been secretly afraid of - Mario Batali's Molto Italiano cookbook. This was one of two cookbooks we got for our wedding and my first glance through the book did a great job of intimidating me. Words like "cuttlefish" and "squid ink" made my throat close up and my heart beat a few extra times.

However, I wanted to hold true to my end of the bargain that I would choose a recipe from whatever book he picked. I laid on the floor and flipped through the 327 recipes that the book offers; as I perused the selection I became less intimidated and realized that while there are at least 100 recipes I have no interest in ever making - there are plenty that I am quite capable of whipping up. After about 30 minutes or so of deliberation and indecision, I chose the Risotto with Acorn Squash (found on page 148).

There were a couple of things that I learned as I went through the process of cooking the meal.

1. Risotto is easy! I have always been afraid to attempt to make risotto because I was worried I would screw it up. How could these little grains of rice POSSIBLY absorb all that liquid?? Well, what I learned last week when I made the rice cream was that it's extremely possible for arborio rice to absorb a ton of liquid. Also - I made sure to read the recipe properly; yes, it called for 8 cups of chicken broth - but it also said to cook the rice until it was tender and creamy but still "al dente". I kept a spoon on hand to test the rice when I was about halfway through the stock - and that's about all it needed. Ta da!

2. Plan ahead to peel an acorn squash. I looked at the squash. I knew it had these little indentations all around the edges. But do you think that I allowed myself enough time in my planning to account for peeling the skin from these edges - nope. Dinner was a little bit later than I wanted it to be as a result. But it was well worth the wait.

The recipe called for homemade chicken stock and referenced some page in the book to see how to make it. However, I am not one of much time - so I "cheated" and bought some boxed stock. I don't feel that the recipe suffered for it. I think if I were to make it again I would be diligent about getting the low-fat low-sodium stock. Also, I am not entirely comfortable dumping a quarter cup of butter into anything I cook - even if I am spreading it across six servings (the book called for 4, but we felt like it made a ton so I spread it to six). I would do it again - but it was something that made me cringe a bit.

This was my favorite of the Mission: Cookbook endeavors that I have tackled so far. I served it up with some sautéed asparagus and it made a great little meal. Steve said it was an excellent dish, and we both agreed that for having some pretty simple ingredients was surprisingly complex. I would easily make this again either for just us to have for dinner or if we were having people for company. Delicious!

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