The Musical Musketeers and Butternut Squash Risotto

So many posts, so little time…and I’m a SAH mom.  I’m late in preparing for the Christmas season; we spent Thanksgiving in sunny Sanibel and– Poof!  Christmas is less than three weeks away.

What takes up so much time?  The musical life of our only child.  He recently submitted his application for the Summer Governor’s Residential Program for Visual and Performing Arts– a long shot since the state accepts only 200 kids for the entire fine arts program, and Ken is only a sophomore.

In helping him catalog his performances for the application, I learned that he has had almost FORTY performances in the last 3 years.

I couldn’t believe that number.

I’m proud of the amount of time and care he has dedicated to ensuring each piece is performance-ready.  I still remember when he was 8 and getting him to focus for more than 15 minutes was a challenge!  This year, he’s Principal Second Violinist for our District Honors Orchestra.

This fall, he and two of his best school mates, Quentin and Megan, performed at two fall festivals.  Sophia Music, a local music studio invited the trio to accompany its house band and singers; with Homecoming the evening before, playing out made for an extremely busy weekend.   They loved it– their first truly “public” gig, playing music other than their standard classical repertoire.  Check out this video to see them in action.  I hope they have opportunity to do it again.

Trio collage

Now for the butternut squash risotto, I did have plans to post this dish while we were in Sanibel, but I mistakenly thought I had downloaded photos from my camera.  Make this recipe; it’s delicious and warming on a cold evening.  Most people shy away from risotto, but for me, it’s a one pot meal that takes no more than 30 minutes to cook.

The original recipe is from Barefoot Contessa; I don’t always use saffron and I almost always swap out the pancetta for more bacon.  Because.  My.  Husband.  Likes.  It.  That.  Way.  I also use less butter.  You can find the original recipe here.

Butternut Squash Risotto with Bacon

  • 1 medium butternut squash, about 2 lbs, peeled and cubed
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 large shallots, minced
  • 6 oz bacon (1/2 pack), sliced cross-wise into 1/2 inch strips
  • 2 – 3 TB unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 c Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (use the real Italian cheese)
  • pinch of saffron

Assemble your ingredients:

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Except for the saffron, these are easily found at your grocery

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Peel and cut the squash into cubes, about 1/2 inch:

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The squash shrinks as it roasts, so don’t go too small.

Place the squash on a rimmed baking sheet, then drizzle with olive oil and toss with salt and pepper.  Place in pre-heated oven and roast for 30 to 40 minutes until tender.  You can flip half-way through, but I don’t bother.  Set the sheet aside.

Pour the stock into a sauce pan and let it warm slowly over low heat.

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You can bring the stock to a simmer, then cover and turn the heat to low.

Peel and chop the shallots; slice the bacon.

In a medium sized skillet on medium high heat, cook the bacon to release some fat.  Do not let the bacon crisp.  Add the butter and let it melt.

When butter has melted, add the risotto and stir to make sure all grains are coated with fat.

Pour the white wine into the pan and stir gently.  Do not let all the wine evaporate!

Using a small ladle add about 1/2 – 3/4 cup of stock to the pan and stir:

When the stock has almost evaporated, add another 1/2 cup.  Continue this process, adding just enough stock to keep the risotto moist and prevent the grains from sticking to the pan.  Stir gently as needed.

The entire process should take about 30 minutes, but test the risotto.  You want a firm, but tender bite (no crunchy hard rice bits).  I use almost all 6 cups of stock.  When the rice is ready, add the saffron, if you are using it.

Add the roasted squash and parm, stirring gently to incorporate with the rice and bacon:

And there you have it!

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