As a child I loved Halloween, seriously - who didn’t?!?! Dressing up as your alter ego, spending the evening with your friends and family in search of as much candy as you can possibly collect and then spending the next few days gorging yourself – ahhh, the privilege of youth!
Though, as i got older the holiday never really meant all that much to me. I doubt I even donned a costume after puberty and when I got involved in the restaurant business I never really had the time for those crazed Halloween parties.
All that being said I do love Halloween, not to mention all holidays big and small. Perhaps more for what it brings to the table rather than it’s historical purpose – of course, I’m talking about the dinner table!
So speaking of dinner, one of my favorite ingredients to cook with during the holiday season is the iconic pumpkin. This squash’s culinary uses are seemingly endless. It can be used in all baked goods from sweet to savory. Flavoring pasta doughs or used in pasta fillings from stuffed raviolis to layered lasagnas, pureed in soups or chunked up into stews. The seeds can be toasted as a seasonal snack or pulverized into nut-seed butters. I’ve used the roasted flesh as toppings for pizzas, quesadillas and tacos or mashed as side dishes. Even the tender blossoms can stuffed then steamed or fried revealing a myriad of fillings like fresh cheese, minced seafood, vegetables and herbs.
Now, with children of my own I have a new found inspiration for all holidays and Halloween is no exception. I developed this risotto well over a decade ago for a holiday episode of my television show and have been making it ever since. It’s perfect for a fall holiday get-together as a meatless entree, appetizer or even as an interesting side dish for other proteins. If you want to “wow” your guests do serve the finished risotto in a hollowed-out, roasted pumpkin shell as a unique and edible tureen or do the same with smaller individual pumpkins for a more personal presentation.
Roasted Pumpkin Risotto
©2000 eric villegas
1 medium whole pie pumpkin, for serving
2 1/2 cups pumpkin flesh, cut (1/2-inch) peeled and seeded
kosher salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
1/2 teaspoon ginger, ground
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, ground
3-4 tablespoon maple sugar
kosher salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste
extra virgin cold pressed olive oil, to taste
6-8 cups roasted vegetable broth, or similar
1 small red onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin cold pressed olive oil Clancy’s Fancy hot sauce, or similar, to taste
2 cups carnaroli rice
1 cup dry white wine, preferably from Michigan
1/2 cup Wood Roasted Garlic Puree
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, stemmed and chopped
2 ounces Wisantigo Parmesan, or similar, grated
2 tablespoons unsalted “sweet” butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Carefully cut out the top of the pumpkin (being careful not to break it) and reserve, then scoop out seeds. Roast the whole pumpkin and the top in a medium sized roasting pan with 1/2-inch water. Cover tightly with foil, until very tender, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool slightly. Discard water from roasting pan, then return pumpkin shell to the pan and keep warm, covered with foil.
Place the raw diced pumpkin in a suitable roasting pan and season with salt, pepper, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and maple sugar. Toss well with the olive oil and roast the pumpkin until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Let the mixture cool to room temperature and blend to a fine puree in a food processor, reserve.
While the whole pumpkin and diced pumpkin roasts prepare the risotto.
In a large heavy bottomed stock pot over high heat bring vegetable broth to a boil, reduce heat and cover, keeping it ready stove side.
In a large heavy bottomed non reactive saute pan, heat the olive oil over low heat and “sweat” the red onions until translucent about 3-5 minutes. Begin light seasoning with the salt, pepper and hot sauce.
Increase the heat to medium high and add the rice, continue the saute until the rice is well coated with the oil and the grains are slightly toasted, stirring with a wooden spoon, about 5-8 minutes (A wooden spoon is always preferable when making risotto, as a metal spoon tends to cut or injure the grains of rice.)
Once the rice is toasted, add the white wine. After the rice has absorbed the white wine and the skillet is nearly dry, begin adding the hot vegetable broth one cup at a time, stirring constantly and letting each addition be absorbed before adding the next, until the rice is tender and creamy looking but still al dente, about 18 -20 minutes total. (There may be broth left over.)
(Adding the liquid in stages, instead of all at once, allows the grains of rice to expand more fully, adding to the risotto’s creamy texture.)
Halfway through the cooking process add the Roasted Garlic Puree and continue with the light seasoning of salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste.
Remove the pan from heat and stir in the roasted pumpkin puree, cheese, fresh thyme and butter, stirring until butter and cheese have melted. Taste and season, if necessary, with salt, pepper, and hot sauce.
Place the roasted pumpkin shell on a suitable platter, fill with the hot risotto, and cover with the reserved top.
Serve immediately and BOO!