It's October, a month typically devoted to shades of orange, not only in the kitchen with all the squash and pumpkin available, but in the leaves (if they change in your neck of the woods), the magazine covers, and the grocery stores reminding you to pick up Halloween candy. Fall announces itself in a big way, and I'm always finding myself printing out recipe after recipe of all things pumpkin. Thankfully, this year I'm finally getting around to making a few of them.
As much as I love soup for its comforting qualities, risotto is also one of my favorite foods to snuggle up on the couch with. It's warm, creamy, and typically laced with Parmesan. Risotto can be plain and simple: stock, salt, Parmesan, and not much else. I love it that way, but if I'm eating it as a main course, as I often am, I like having a little something extra, like sauted mushrooms or fried sage on top. You know, something that introduces additional flavor and texture to the bowl.
Like the beet risotto method, I infused the stock with pumpkin puree so that the flavor would reach the entire dish.
6 large button mushrooms, sliced
Extra-virgin olive oil
6 cups chicken stock
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 small onion or 1 large shallot, minced
1/2 cup vermouth or white wine
2 cups arborio rice
2 tablespoons cold butter
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated, plus more for serving
For the mushrooms: Sauté mushrooms with 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Season with a pinch of salt and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Set aside.
For the risotto: In a four-quart stockpot, heat the chicken stock and pumpkin puree to a low boil, then keep at a simmer. In a heavy saucepan, warm 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-low heat and add the onion. Cook for 2 minutes, until slightly softened. (To avoid dirtying another dish, I used the same pan that I used for the mushrooms.) Add the rice and stir to coat. Cook for 2 minutes, until the edges are translucent. Add the vermouth and stir until the liquid reduces almost completely.
For the next 20-25 minutes, add stock a ladle at a time, stirring consistently to coax out the starch in the rice. Add more stock only when the liquid is almost fully reduced. When the rice is cooked through it will be tender but slightly firm, and suspended in a creamy sauce (you may have broth leftover). Test for seasonings, then turn off heat.
Quickly add 1/2 cup Parmesan and cold butter. With a wooden spoon, stir rapidly to get air into the rice and help melt the butter. When the butter is nearly melted, put a lid on the pot and let sit for 2 minutes. To serve, spoon rice into shallow bowls. Garnish with the reserved mushrooms and a bit more Parmesan. Serve hot.