Gingered squash risotto with glazed pecans


Makes 6 to 8 servings

Risotto is the perfect ice-breaker when company gathers in the kitchen. While you toss a salad, draft your guests to take a turn stirring the rice. In the process, it will absorb about four times its own volume in liquid, allowing the semi-sweet and fruity Riesling to offer a delicate yet complex quality to the elegant dish. I recommend using Comte cheese, a kind of Gruyère, with superb melting qualities.

5 cups vegetable or chicken stock, or as needed (prepare using stock concentrate, cubes, or powder)

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

2 cups acorn squash (or other orange-fleshed winter squash) in ¼-inch dice

1 cup sliced crimini mushrooms (about 3 ounces)

½ cup finely chopped onion

¼ cup finely chopped shallots

1 ½ cups Arborio rice

½ cup Riesling or other medium-bodied, high-acid, semi-sweet white wine

1 cup coarsely chopped radicchio

½ cup dried cranberries

¼ cup freshly grated Comte cheese

½ teaspoon minced fresh ginger, or to taste

½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper, or to taste

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Glazed Pecans (see recipe) for garnish

Bring the vegetable stock to a simmer in a small saucepan. Cover and adjust the heat to maintain a simmer.

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the squash, mushrooms, onion, and shallots; cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are almost tender, about 12 minutes. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter; stir until melted. Add the rice and stir to coat with the butter.

Add the wine and simmer to evaporate. Pour ½ cup of the simmering stock into the rice (maintain a cooking temperature high enough so that the hot broth continues bubbling after it is added to the rice). Cook, stirring constantly, until the stock is absorbed, about 2 minutes. Continue adding the stock, ½ cup at a time, stirring until it is mostly absorbed and evaporated before adding more. (It may not be necessary to use all the stock, or more may be needed.) Cook the risotto, adding stock as needed, until the rice is tender but still firm, about 20 to 25 minutes.

When adding the last ½ cup of vegetable stock, reduce the heat to low; add the remaining ingredients, except the garnish, and stir until the radicchio is wilted. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Garnish the servings with Glazed Pecans and Fried Sage.