Here in mid-November, dark night falls at 5:30 pm. The quality of the sunlight has changed to a pale, mellow, slanting light from the harsh glare of summer. Christmas songs keep floating through my mind, to be fought off until the end of Thanksgiving. I want to cherish each moment, not rush blindly through the holiday season, only to feel exhausted and disenchanted by New Year’s Eve.
In that vein of slowing and savoring, I offer you a warm, cozy meal that combines many of the flavors I associate with the late fall-come winter season. This maple roasted pumpkin and crispy bacon risotto is fabulously rich and creamy and meaty tasting. It is so luscious, indeed, that I recommend serving it with a bright salad (perhaps with orange slices and a pomegranate vinaigrette) to help clear you palate, allowing you to fully luxuriate in each delicious bite. The colors of all the different elements of this dish are beautiful. Take a few minutes to appreciate the beauty of what you are cooking (you have to look at it anyway, so you might as well enjoy it!).
If this is your first risotto, and you feel a bit nervous, check out this post where I talk about some of the hows and wherefores of making a basic risotto and why it really isn’t that intimidating. So, I implore you to try this, in a hearty bowl before the fire, at a small dinner with friends, or maybe even as a new side for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. Trust me, your taste buds and sun-starved soul (for those of us in the dark lands) will thank you! Not sure what to do with left over pumpkin? Try throwing it in with your morning oatmeal along with some pecans, or pureeing it to add to yogurt or your favorite pumpkin bread recipe. This really is the meal that keeps on giving!
Maple- roasted Pumpkin and Crispy Bacon Risotto
inspired by Donal Skehan
makes 4-6 (or 7) mains, or many, many sides!
1 small pumpkin, halved, seeds removed (and saved for roasting!), peeled and cubed- this recipe will use roughly 2-2.5 cups of roasted cubes
2 tsp maple syrup
6-8 pieces of bacon
4 1/2 cup low sodium chicken stock
1 cup of white wine
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
4 sage leaves
1 small to medium red onion, small dice
2 cups Arborio rice
3 tsp butter
3/4 to1 cup parmigiano reggiano, finely grated
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. On a large pan, lined with parchment, toss pumpkin cubes with maple syrup. Roast in oven until beginning to carmelize and soften, but not mushy. Check at 20 minutes. When done, remove from oven, transfer pumpkin to clean plate and place bacon on parchment. Return to oven and bake until crisp (even if you are a soft bacon person. the crispness makes it easier to crumble in the final stage).
In a small pan bring stock to a simmer. Heat wine separately. In a large pan over medium heat add one tablespoon of olive oil, and sautee onion, garlic, and sage until onion just begins to soften. Add pumpkin, and continue to cook until onions are soft and translucent. Return all ingredients to pumpkin plate. Return pan to stove; add more oil if necessary. Add rice, and stir to coat each grain with the fat. Over medium heat sautee rice until it begins to become translucent and give off a warm, toasty fragrance, roughly five minutes. Add pumpkin and onion mix back to the pan, and continue cooking for about two minutes, then add heated wine (if the wine is cold it will shock the rice causing the outside surface to flake while the inside remains hard).
When the wine has evaporated, increase the heat to medium high and begin to gradually add the simmering stock,one ladle at a time, stirring constantly from this point on. Before the liquid has completely absorbed add more stock. Continue the cycle of stock and stir for 15 to 20 minutes until four cups of the stock have been absorbed. Taste to see if the risotto has reached a desired level of doneness. If you like yours a bit less al dente, add and cook down remaining 1/4 to1/2 cup of stock. Remove from heat; add butter and parm. regg. and stir till smooth and creamy. Plate, crumble bacon over each portion, and serve immediately.