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Turn fresh pumpkin into creamy risotto dish

Last week I shared a recipe for White Chocolate Candy Corn Blondies to help use up some of the excess Halloween treats you probably have on hand after Thursday night's festivities. (You can still check it out here: http://bit.ly/17szo1V)

This week, I have a savory suggestion that takes advantage of any fresh pumpkin you may have saved when carving up this year's jack-o-lanterns.

Risotto con Zucca e Parmigiano.

That's foodie-speak for "pumpkin risotto with cheese," but it's delicious by any name. And those gorgeous gourds shouldn't have died in vain!

Now I know what you're thinking.

The very thought of cooking risotto at home often strikes fear in even the most accomplished amateur chefs. And this week's recipe is from the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, which probably makes it more "technical" than most.

But I've made homemade risotto before and it's not difficult. It is a little time-consuming, yes. And it does require a fair amount of attention, so it's not something you can just let cook while you go fold laundry.

It's not difficult, though - and the rich, dense, creamy results of this super-satisfying rice dish are worth it.

Here are few tips to better your chances of success:

* Although traditional fresh pumpkin (or even canned) can be used, a smaller sugar pumpkin will be much more flavorful.

* You'll want to use a superfino rice like arborio or carnaroli, which have the fattest and largest grains and therefore absorb more liquid than other rice while still remaining firm. (Risotto gets its unique taste and texture from rice that absorbs a large amount of flavorful liquid. So the more absorbed, the bigger the "wow" factor.)

* Despite popular opinion, you really don't need to stir the rice constantly, especially during the first 10 minutes. Keep the rice wet at all times during initial cooking, and then gently stir every few minutes during the simmering phase to make sure it stays uniformly moist and doesn't stick to the pan.

* Use a high-quality broth, and make sure it's hot when you add it to rice in the pan.

And heed this advice from the CIA: "In Italy they say un peccato mortale (it's a mortal sin) to use the wrong pot to cook risotto," says chef Gianni Scappin. "You need a deep stainless steel sautoir, which is a saucepan with straight sides, a heavy bottom and a handle. Absolutely avoid using a saute pan or skillet, because the liquid will evaporate too quickly before the rice has a chance to absorb it."

After your risotto is ready, serving it is another serious matter. Or so says Scappin, who calls it another "mortal sin" to serve it in a bowl instead of on a flat plate. He suggests eating your risotto from the outside edge of a plate inward, so the rice has time to cool slightly as you eat it, enabling you to better enjoy the flavor.

I know that's a lot of rules, so you can visit http://bit.ly/1iFHzXT to watch a step-by-step demonstration of Scappin working with fresh pumpkin while preparing this week's recipe.

***

I realize this would qualify as sacrilege for most, but I'd much rather see pumpkin risotto on this year's Thanksgiving table than the mounds of mashed potatoes and candied yams most folks prefer as their holiday starches of choice.

I am more traditional when it comes to the turkey (that bird belongs in the oven!) but it looks like I'm in the minority now.

Americans cook up an estimated 46 million turkeys each Thanksgiving, and according to a new survey this will be the first year more consumers cook their bird outside rather than in.

The Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association reports that when it comes to cooking their Thankgsiving meals outdoors, 53 percent say they would be most likely to cook their turkey inside.

If you're one of those 53 percent, the folks at Napolean Gourmet Grills offer these turkey tips:

* Purchase a turkey that is broad and flat enough to fit under a covered grill top.

* Make sure there is at least one inch of space between the turkey and the lid.

* Apply a thin coating of non-stick cooking spray to the unheated rack and brush the outer surface of the turkey with cooking oil.

* Do not tie the legs together when grilling a whole bird - it will cook more evenly if hot air circulates through it.

* Allow two to three hours of indirect cooking time for an 8- to 12-pound turkey and three to four hours for a 12- to 16-pound turkey.

Contact writer Steven Keith at dailymailfoodguy@aol.com or 304-348-1721. You can also follow him on Facebook and Pinterest as "DailyMail FoodGuy," on Twitter as "DMFoodGuy" or read his blog at http://blogs.dailymail.com/foodguy.

 

Pumpkin Risotto with Parmigiano-Reggiano

3-pound pumpkin

1 quart chicken or vegetable broth

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, minced

10 ounces (1 1/2 cups) carnaroli or arborio rice

4 ounces (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cubed

3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper, to taste

 

  • age leaves, as needed (optional)
  •  

    crumbled amaretti cookies (optional)

    1. Cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds. Peel the pumpkin and dice the flesh. Set aside.

    2. Heat the broth over low heat and keep warm.

    3. Heat the oil in a large pot over low heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until tender and translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the diced pumpkin and continue to cook, stirring to coat the pumpkin with the oil until it is hot, about 2 minutes. Add the rice and toast lightly, stirring frequently, about 2 minutes.

    4. Add enough of the broth to come one-half inch above the rice and cook, stirring frequently to be sure the rice doesn't stick to the bottom. As the rice absorbs the broth, keep adding more, one-half cup at a time.

    5. Once the rice has absorbed almost all the broth and the grains are just tender, about 20 minutes total cooking time, remove the pot from the heat. Add the butter and cheese and stir vigorously until the risotto is creamy. (The pumpkin will start to fall apart; this is what should happen and gives the risotto a brilliant orange color and additional creaminess.) Season with salt and pepper if necessary and serve immediately on flat plates.

    6. Top the risotto with a few leaves of sage fried in butter and a sprinkling of crumbled amaretti cookies, if desired.

    CHEF'S NOTE: Any type of winter squash or pumpkin will work in this recipe, including butternut, cheese, acorn or Hubbard squash. The color of this risotto will depend on the type of winter squash you use.

    Serves 4-6. Recipe courtesy of the Culinary Institute of America.


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