(Updated - Thanks Laurie for picking up that missing squash. I've revised the recipe below)
The winds are howling like wolves in heat, sneering at the sight of any umbrella that dared to bare its teeth. The rain, oh, this is the rain that epic poems are made of. This is the rain that drills holes into the ground and turns streets into rivers and reminds us Walmart plebians that waterfront property is used as rice paddies in other times and places.
It’s a shame that some of this glorious tempest didn’t come in the growing months when the farmers could have used it.
The storm is coming through strong. They’re calling for 120km winds on the west coast and up to 90 km for the rest of the island. I don’t know if it’s getting that burly here on the inside edge of the island here but it’s making short work of the backyard fence and is certainly providing a whole lot of drama. Even the ferries have been cancelled to the mainland. This brings to mind just how tenuous our reach to the mainland really is.I’m cozied up inside, wrapped in the brilliant hug of MY NEW SWEATER!!!!
The first thing I did this morning was put on my new sweater and take it for a test run now that it’s finally dried from blocking. And not a moment too late, it’s the knitted equivalent of comfort food.
Speaking of comfort food, I made one of my favorite comfort foods last night for dinner: Risotto. Not just any risotto, I made a chorizo-butternut squash- manchego risotto. OK, the rice and the cheese weren’t from a local farms but most of the rest of the meal was. I had a ½ a chorizo sausage from Quist Farms just down the highway, some of the roasted butternut squash, onion and garlic from local farms, swiss chard and parsley from my own veggie garden and chicken stock made from local chickens. The swiss chard was sautéed in oil and crushed garlic and dressed with a few drops of pear balsamic vinegar from Auld Alliance farms on Gabriola Island.
It was so good that Kevin and I barely spoke while eating dinner except to remark about how good it was. The savory spicy sausage played against the sweet squash and the manchego cheese provided just the right amount of unami richness. It just all came together so well in the creamy risotto that I was surprised by how well it turned out. The swiss chard provided a nice break with its mild bitterness and simple greenness.
Here’s a picture of Kevin enjoy the last of his risotto. 10 seconds later he was literally licking the bowl clean. I don’t have any pictures of that because I was too busy laughing while protecting my bowl of risotto from his predatory fork.
Here’s the Fast & Dirty recipe for Chorizo-Squash-Manchego Risotto (serves 2)
1 cup Arborio rice
½ link dried chorizo - chopped
1 cup roasted butternut squash- cubed
½ small onion or 2 shallots- chopped fine
1 garlic chopped fine
1 litre chicken stock –simmering
½ cup manchego cheese –grated
1 pat of butter
handful of parsley- chopped fine
salt & pepper
You want to have a pot of the stock simmering as you make this.
In a wide bottom pan, heat up a couple glugs of olive oil and the chorizo sausage over medium heat. Let the oils and flavour render out of the sausage a bit. Anytime you see the word 'render' you know it's going to be good eats.
Add onions and garlic. Cook for a few minutes until the onions have softened.
Add rice and stir so that the oil coats each grain. The rice will turn translucent on the outside with a white core.
Add in a ladle of hot stock into the pan.
Stir. Stir. Stir.
Keep stirring slowly until the rice absorbs most of the stock.
Repeat with another ladle of stock
And keep repeating until the rice is cooked through. This recipe will take most of the litre of stock and about 20 mins of cooking. You don’t want to overcook the rice into a gummy, pablum mess but you also don’t want crunchy risotto. I tend to cook it until there's only a residue of uncooked rice in the grain and then add a touch more stock and let it simply absorb the excess liquid.
Once it’s cooked through, drop in the butter, roasted squash, cheese and parsley.
Stir. Taste. Season.
You don’t have to stir the rice constantly for the whole 20 mins. I find that after the first couple ladlefuls of stock, I only have to stir it up once or twice and just let the rice absorb the liquid and make sure it doesn’t burn. By then the starch dust around the rice has done much its work to make a nice creamy base.
Some folks tell me that they find making risotto too time-consuming and tedious. Obviously they’ve been making sucky risotto because once you’ve had good risotto, you’ll realize that 20 minutes of your time is small price to pay for this bowl of Italian heaven. Quite frankly, during these cold, damp evenings, hanging out over a pot of steaming, savory goodness is not the worse place to be. Consider it a kitchen spa treatment as you inhale the wonderful aromas rising from your pan and you stir meditative patterns like a rake through a zen sand garden through the creamy rice.