I agree with Shannon on Simply Cooking that cooking seasonally is a wonderful thing to do, and that nothing says fall quite like butternut squash. I read her post as a challenge to do something new with butternut. I also hadn't made risotto in some time, and there seemed to be a potential match there. My wheels got turning, and the result was this Butternut Chicken Risotto with Fresh Sage. A hearty dish for a cool fall evening, with hint of sweetness from the squash balanced by the subtle flavor of sage. Here's the recipe:
1 1b. butternut squash, diced
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut in inch pieces
4 cups chicken broth
4 cups water
3 tbsp fresh sage, chopped, plus 4 extra sage leaves
2 tbsp parsley, chopped
3 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 cup pecorino romano or parmesan cheese (I used a blend)
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon white truffle oil
2 cups arborio rice
Combine the chicken broth, water, and the 4 sage leaves, and bring to a boil. Add the butternut squash, and boil gently for about 10 minutes, until the squash begins to soften. Remove the squash with a slotted spoon, reserving the liquid. Set the squash aside and keep the liquid on low heat. Discard the 4 sage leaves.
Melt the butter on medium heat in a nonreactive, nonstick pan. Add the onions and 1 tbsp sage, sautee until onions soften, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken and cook until it begins to turn white on the outside. Add the rice and stir for about 2 minutes, until the rice is thoroughly coated with butter. Add the garlic powder.
Begin ladling the liquid into the rice pan, about 1 cup at a time. After adding a cup of liquid, gently stir the rice virtually nonstop (OK, you can run briefly to the refrigerator, but you need to be committed to the risotto!). When the cup of liquid has been absorbed, add another cup and repeat the process.
The cooking time for the risotto (once you begin the ladling) is about 30 minutes. When all the liquid has been absorbed, check the consistency of risotto. It should be tender but still have firmness. If it seems too hard (think--would you want to eat it?), add additional water and follow the same process until you get to the desired consistency. Note when the risotto is done, it can't absorb more liquid, so there's a bit of liquid left. This helps to mix in the cheese.
Stir in the reserved squash, the cheese, 1 more tbsp. of sage, pepper to taste, and truffle oil if you're using it. Serve with crusty bread and a green salad or broccoli rabe. Offer additional cheese and the remaining herbs for optional toppings (a pinch of the herbs add a very nice lively flavor). Enjoy!