Bejeweled Pumpkin Risotto

Some things just go together. Like peanut butter and jelly. (Or is it peanut butter and chocolate?) Lately for me, it has been pumpkin and pomegranate, beginning with those cupcakes. Call this variation II on a theme.

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Bejeweled Pumpkin Risotto

adapted from Danny Meyer and Michael Romano in The Union Square Cafe Cookbook

Serves 6

Pumpkin Broth

(yield: 7-8 cups of liquid)

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 celery stalk with leaves, washed and sliced
  • 1 leek, washed and thinly sliced, white and light green parts only
  • 2 cups canned pumpkin purée
  • 8 cups (2 quarts) chicken stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 4 allspice berries
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • ¼ cinnamon stick (about 1 inch long)
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • kosher salt and freshly grated black pepper

Risotto

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1¾ cups arborio rice
  • 1½ cups winter squash (butternut, sugar pumpkin, or acorn), peeled, seeded, and diced (For me, one medium butternut squash weighed in a little over 1 pound and worked perfectly.)
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 6-7 cups pumpkin broth
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh sage
  • 2 cups arugula, washed and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated black pepper
  • ¼ cup (¾ ounces) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • pomegranate, as finishing touch

In a large saucepan or stock pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery, leek, and a pinch of salt sauté until tender, about 10 minutes.

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Stir in the pumpkin purée and continue cooking for 2-3 minutes. Add the chicken stock, bay leaf, spices, and maple syrup. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes. Pour the broth through a fine-mesh strainer. To avoid ending up with a thick purée rather than a broth, take care not to mash the vegetables through the strainer. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (Make ahead note: The broth can be made 1-2 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator. It also freezes well.)

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In the same saucepan, heat the pumpkin broth to a simmer.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a separate, 3-quart heavy saucepan or skillet. Toss the rice and diced winter squash and stir with a wooden spoon until coated with oil. Add the white wine and stir constantly until all the wine has been absorbed by the rice. Ladle ½ cup of hot pumpkin broth into the pan and stir until it is absorbed. Continue with the rest of the broth, adding ½ cup at a time and letting each addition be absorbed completely by the rice before adding more liquid. The constant stirring allows the rice to release its starch into the cooking liquid, resulting in the characteristic risotto creaminess. The grains of rice should be al dente and the squash tender. Count on approximately 20-25 minutes for the rice and squash to cook.

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Finish by stirring in the sage, arugula, salt, pepper, and half the cheese. Swirl in the butter. Spoon into warm bowls, sprinkle with remaining cheese and pomegranate, and serve immediately.

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