November 23, 2011

butternut squash & me - on TV!

There’s nothing I don’t like about this recipe.  It’s easy to make, yet it’s impressive to serve.  It’s healthy, but doesn’t taste it.  It’s vegan if you want it to be.  My kids will eat it.  I made it up all by myself.  And I got to cook it on TV.  On TV!
I love risotto.  You can put virtually anything from your pantry in it, and if you’re willing to commit the time to stand there and lovingly stir, stir, stir, it’s going to taste good. 
This recipe highlights butternut squash, which gets a boost of flavor from the quick oven roasting on the front end.  If I’m feeding it to my kids, I puree all of it and tell them they’re eating cheese.  It mostly matches the color on the blue box, so it mostly works.  I prefer to keep some of the cubes of squash intact for presentation and texture, but then my delicious meal is dampened by varying octaves of whining.  This dish is worth it.
Roasted butternut squash and herb risotto
Serves four
INGREDIENTS:One medium butternut squash, cut into ½” cubes
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt to taste
Four cups chicken or veggie stock
Juice of one lemon
One medium onion, finely chopped
1 cup Arborio rice
2 tbs butter
1 tsp cumin
dash cinnamon
1 tbs each fresh sage and thyme, chopped (if using dried herbs, use ½ tbs each)
PROCESS:Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Toss squash with 2 tbs olive oil and spread onto baking sheet.  Sprinkle with kosher salt to taste.  Roast in oven 20 minutes, stirring once halfway through, until squash is barely browned.  Let cool.
In the meantime, heat all the stock and lemon juice in a stock pot until warm.  Do not allow to boil.
Take half of the roasted squash cubes and puree in a blender, using ¾ cup of the stock to blend it completely.  Set aside, along with the remaining squash cubes. 

Put butter and onion in a deep sauté pan over medium heat.  Cook until onions are translucent, about five minutes.  Add dry Arborio rice and stir, about three minutes. 
Add warm stock to the rice, about ½ cup at a time, and stir continuously.  Add cumin and cinnamon.  Do not allow rice to completely absorb the stock before adding more.  All four cups of liquid will be used. 
Once all liquid is used, add the squash puree, thyme and sage.  Continue stirring until risotto is desired al dente texture.  Stir in reserved roasted cubes of squash and serve immediately. 

November 15, 2011

fried chicken nachos (or, good + good = really good)

I can’t decide if this is a confession or an accomplishment, but here goes:
I put fried chicken on nachos.
I blame Twitter.  It was a Friday and I had already decided I was going to have fried chicken for dinner.  Then I got a tweet from a friend who thought I might just enjoy seeing the photo and recipe for some killer nachos.  And yes, I pretty much always enjoy seeing, talking about, thinking about, making and/or eating nachos.  But it left this self-proclaimed nachos expert in a pickle.  I suddenly wanted nachos and fried chicken at the same time.  So, after a bit of Twitter banter where I pretended to be kidding about the possibility of fried chicken nachos (when I was actually already planning the recipe in my mind), I was set.
It’s simple math, really.  Good + good = really good. 
And these nachos are really, really good.  The fried chicken was certainly over the top, but I think my favorite thing about these nachos was the avocado ranch crema* I whipped up.  *By ‘crema,’ I mean I mixed avocado, ranch dressing & sour cream together & called it something fancier.  Either way, I’ll be making it again.  You should, too.
I don’t have a real recipe.  I mean, it’s nachos.  Nachos assembly is personal.  Who am I to tell you how much cheese is enough?  Just go for it.  Here’s what I put on these.
Fried Chicken Nachos with Avocado Ranch Crema
tortilla chips
fried chicken tenders, chopped
sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
green onions, chopped
tomatoes, chopped
green leaf lettuce, shredded
fresh avocado, sliced
avocado ranch crema*
Texas Pete, and lots of it

Assemble chips, cheese, onions, tomatoes and chicken on an oven-proof baking sheet or pan.  Broil until it’s where you want it.  Top with lettuce, avocado, crema and hot sauce.  Serve immediately.
*For the crema, mix equal parts mashed avocado, ranch dressing & sour cream together.  Add lemon juice & garlic powder to taste.  
Ok, ok.  I do have a confession.  When I was in college I worked at a Tex Mex restaurant chain & like many restaurant employees, got frustrated with the various ridiculous requests of customers.  I recall saying something like, “I bet if we put fried chicken bacon ranch nachos on the menu, people would eat them.”  I was thoroughly grossed out by the idea at the time, though I now know it was delicious foreshadowing.  I may even add bacon next time.