Butternut Squash Risotto

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As we all know Valentine’s Day is tomorrow!!! James and I have never celebrated it because our dating anniversary is February 12th.  So we’ve always had a romantic dinner on the 12th out and usually just stay in and cook on the 14th. We are slightly off of our schedule this year, but we are going out tonight and staying in tomorrow.

Yesterday was one of the worst weather days we’ve had all year. It was so cold, snowed about 3 inches in the morning and then proceeded to sleet/rain the rest of the day.  All of our pretty snow from Thursday is now slushy/icy and wholly unpleasant now! Anyway, leaving the house yesterday wasn’t really an option because our road and driveway weren’t  cleared and we didn’t want to take a chance.

Luckily, because of our big snow storm on Thursday, I had bought quite a few groceries and had all the ingredients necessary to make this delicious butternut squash risotto.  This dish is soooooo tasty and hearty and really perfect for a dreary very cold day! The best part is that the receipt is meant to feed 4-6 people so LEFTOVERS!!!!

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What you need:

  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed (seeds removed)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 cups chicken stock (or veggie stock to make this truly vegetarian)
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 minced shallots
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tsp saffron threads
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat your oven to 400F.

On a sheet pan put your 1″ cubed butternut squash and drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper.  Toss together to coat thoroughly and put pan in the oven.

Cook squash for 25-30min until soft.

Meanwhile, in a dutch oven or heavy bottom pan over medium heat, warm your butter and 1 tbsp of olive oil until hot then add in your minced shallots.

When shallots are translucent and softened, about 10min, add in your rice.  Cook rice in the oil for 1-2min to remove any raw flavor on the rice.

Add in your white wine and cook down until almost all of it is absorbed, stirring frequently. Season with salt and pepper.

Then add in your chicken or veggie stock 1 cup at a time, stirring frequently until absorbed.

Continue adding stock this way until the rice is cooked through, but still slightly al dente, usually takes about 30min.

Remove from the heat and add in your parmesan cheese and squash before serving.

Serve with the white wine you used to cook, and it is that much more delicious!

Bon Appetite!

Arroz con Pollo

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On cold wintery nights, sometimes you just want a little comfort food.  One of my favorite things growing up was arroz con pollo, which literally means chicken with rice. It is hearty and so full of flavor. This doesn’t fall into the super healthy dinner options, but its not that bad!

I had a sour stomach the other day, and I was attempting to heed the “B.R.A.T.” diet (Bananas, Rice, Apple Sauce, and Toast). Now being a private chef, eating just plain boiled rice is definitely NOT an option – give me some flavor please! Plus eating only the B.R.A.T. ingredients, you don’t get any protein and are thus hungry. Enter a childhood favorite: Arroz con Pollo.  It is predominantly rice based, but it does have chicken as well and some very nice flavor.

This was James first time to have it, and he enjoyed it a lot. It is kind of a Mexican version of a risotto or paella – what is not to love?

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What you need:

  • 1 1/2 lb chicken thighs (boneless/skinless)
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced in strips
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, thinly sliced in strips
  • 1 tomato, thinly sliced in strips
  • 1 small can tomato sauce + 1 can of water
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups of long grain rice
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt +more to taste
  • 1/2 tsp pepper +more to taste

In a large dutch oven, warm about a tablespoon of vegetable oil over medium/high heat.

Chop your chicken thighs into 1″ cubes and season with salt and pepper.

Cook in the dutch oven until about halfway done, 5 min or so, and add in your onion and bell pepper.

Cook a further 7-8min until onion is translucent and the chicken is cooked through.

Add in your rice and diced tomato and cook without any liquid for about 3-4min to get the raw flavor out of the rice.

Add in your garlic powder, cumin, salt and pepper.

Add in the tomato sauce, water, and stock, and season with salt and pepper and stir around.

Once liquid starts to boil, cover the pot and reduce heat to low.  Cook for about 25min, but double check the rice package for timing instructions.

When you are done the onion and bell pepper float to the top, you can either leave them in or pick some of them out to keep the flavor but not bite into large pieces of onion and pepper.

Finally enjoy! This is an easy one to prepare for a lot of people and please a crowd!

Squid Ink Risotto

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This is a dish that will truly impress you guests, and its pretty easy to make! Risottos are the perfect fall and winter dishes.  They are hearty, rice based meals usually with a protein, and make you nice and warm inside 🙂

Rice is essentially a blank canvas and takes on the flavor of anything you add to it.  It’s perfect for saffron, chicken stock, tomato, onion, lime, coconut, basil, and just about anything else you can think of. What is great about this recipe, is that it is very affordable to make, but very impressive.

James sadly didn’t get to partake in this dinner, he has been flying around the country for work, so I have had to entertain myself with friends instead.  However, the night I enjoyed this dinner, not long after the meal’s end our power went out! I mean the meal was black, but I had no intention of enjoying it in the dark! This night in question was also particularly balmy at around 85 degrees and 90% humidity, so risotto felt like a horrific choice without air conditioning! Several bottles of wine later, we all felt squid ink risotto was actually even better over candlelight in a warm room!…

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What you need:

  • 1lb fresh squid
  • 5 cups fish stock
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp sofrito
  • 2 cups of paella or aborio or risotto rice (they’re all the same)
  • 1/2 oz of squid ink
  • 4 tsp picada

Chop up your squid so the tubes are all about 1″ or so thick.

Bring a medium saucepan up to medium high heat and add the olive oil.  Once hot add the squid and fry for 2 minutes.

Add the sofrito to the pan of squid and cook a further 10 minutes on medium heat.

Add the rice stirring into the squid and cook for 10 minutes before adding too much liquid. Stir it frequently.

Keep your fish stock warm in a small sauce pan, and begin adding it to your pot of risotto about a cup at a time.  Stirring frequently the whole time, repeat this step for about 5 minutes.

Mix your squid ink into a small bowl of fish stock and dissolve it into the mixture.  Add this to the pot of risotto along with another cup of stock and cook stirring frequently another 10 minutes or so adding stock as necessary.

Add the picada into the pot and stir it again.  Cook for a further 2 minutes, season with sea salt and serve.

The dish should look thick and a little saucey still and the rice should be slightly al dente.

Risotto is a bit labor intensive because you have to keep stirring it regularly, but it really is delicious and worth it!