Congee, you know what I mean? Except not. First, I’ll admit that this was not the most convenient meal to make on a weeknight–but it can be done. Just remember to pop the squash in the oven as soon as possible, then begin the rest of your preparation and cooking. That way it should be soft enough by the time the risotto is ready for it to be added. Timing is everything.
Second, the presentation may look a little frou-frou, but the dish itself isn’t much more complicated than making risotto. This would be a good dish to make if you have some leftover risotto of any type and want to spruce it up with some quick bling. That’s why congees are a traditional breakfast dish–using up the leftover rice from the day before, you make a porridge out of it by cooking it with lots of water, then throw any leftover meat and veggies on top. Sometimes it’s only a little spray of scallions and ginger. I didn’t end up making the risotto quite soupy enough for it to resemble much of a congee, and it certainly didn’t taste like any I’ve ever had.
Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto with Wilted Spinach, Leeks and Chinese Sausage
(makes about 3 servings)
About 1/2 lb butternut squash, cut or sliced into large pieces
1/4 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup arborio rice
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 cup white wine
Handful or two thinly sliced leeks
1 chinese sausage link, sliced thinly on a bias
1 bunch fresh baby spinach, stems removed
Salt and fresh ground pepper
2 Tb olive oil
1 Tb butter
1 clove garlic
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Season butternut squash slices with salt, pepper and olive oil and roast for about 40 minutes or until soft. Sautee onions in some of the olive oil for about 5 minutes on low heat. Add the risotto, and stir to let rice toast for a few minutes. Add garlic and wine and stir until absorbed. Add warm stock ladleful at a time until rice is cooked and risotto has a slightly soupy consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Once the baked squash has cooled, peel off the skin and chop the flesh into cubes. Add butter and squash to the risotto and stir thoroughly.
Heat a small pan and sautee the sliced sausage and leeks for about 3 minutes, until just heated up and slightly charred in spots. Remove from pan and sprinkle on top of plated risotto. In the same pan heat a little olive oil and add spinach and a sprinkle of salt. Cook for about a minute, flipping the spinach over once, then turn off the heat. Serve alongside the risotto. As a final touch, drizzle a little olive oil on top of everything to sort of marry the ingredients, and serve immediately.
(for 3 servings)
1/2 lb butternut squash (at $1.39/lb): $0.70
1/4 cup chopped onion: $0.15
3/4 cup risotto (at $4.19/36 oz box): $0.50
1/2 cup white wine: $0.65
2 cups stock: $1.20
2 handfuls sliced leeks (at $2.39/lb): $0.45
1 chinese sausage link (at $6.00/package of 12): $0.50
1 bunch spinach: $0.99
Olive oil, butter, salt, pepper, garlic: $0.10
Four brownie points – So fresh and so clean. Barely cooking vegetables is a virtue, and unlike in cold salads they come out warm and comforting with the help of risotto. Obviously, sausage is not your healthiest protein, but this kind (lap chong, or lop xiong: sweet, smoky Chinese sausage similar to chorizo in that it’s firm and already cooked, but longer and skinnier) comes vacuum sealed in clear plastic packages, which means you can choose to buy whichever brand looks to have the least amount of white flecks of fat in them.