Butternut, Blue Cheese, and Bacon Risotto

It finally felt like fall today. It was downright chilly in the morning, and it’s been cool enough to have my windows open all day. After what seemed like the hottest summer in decades, it’s a great relief.

And it’s also time to bring out the fall produce. A few days ago, a video of Mario Batali on CNN’s Eatocracy introduced me to the concept of scorpacciata, eating all you can of seasonal products for the short time they’re at their peak. And early fall is prime scorpacciata time for butternut squash, quite possibly my favorite vegetable (okay, botanically it’s a fruit, whatever).

And with the weather nice and cool, a hot, hearty meal was in order. Butternut goes beautifully in risotto and pairs wonderfully with blue cheese. I’ve made butternut-and-blue risotto many times. But this afternoon when I suggested it, Nadria asked what our protein source would be. I couldn’t think of anything better than bacon. And the results were pretty astounding.

Butternut, Blue Cheese, and Bacon Risotto

Butternut, Blue Cheese, and Bacon Risotto

4 to 5 cups chicken stock
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 tsp. ground dried sage
2 strips bacon, diced
1/2 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup arborio rice
1/4 cup white wine
2 tbsp. cream
1 oz. blue cheese
Grated parmesan cheese

Bring stock to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Keep boiling while you prepare the risotto.

Heat oil over medium-high heat in a medium pan until just starting to smoke. Add squash, season with salt and pepper, and sauté until nicely browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Stir in sage, remove from heat, and set aside.

Cook bacon in a medium saucepan over medium heat until most of fat has rendered out and bacon is beginning to brown. Add onion, sprinkle with salt, and sauté until onion is soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 30 seconds. Add rice and stir until well coated with fat.

Pour in wine and cook, stirring constantly, until almost all liquid is absorbed and pan starts to look dry. Add a ladleful (about 1/2 cup) of hot stock and cook, stirring constantly, until almost all liquid is absorbed. Repeat with more stock until rice is fully cooked and risotto has a thick texture. (You will not need all of the stock. Freeze the extra.)

Turn heat to low and add cream and blue cheese. Stir until cheese is melted. Grate some parmesan into risotto and season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in reserved butternut mixture. Serve topped with additional parmesan.

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