Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Copycat Risotto and a Gorgeous Disaster

Has anyone else been following Project Runway like a hawk tracking its prey through an open field?

Remember a couple episodes back where Mean-a Irina accuses Althea on the runway of copying her Aspen look, and Althea claimed her voluminous sweater was based on her own original sketch all along? This was a classic case of who-thought-of-it-first. This kind of stuff happens all the time among creatives working closely with one another (it happens to me in my job, like, every day). You see striking similarities between your work and someone else's, and no one can quite figure out whose idea was the original one.

That same phenomenon happened in my kitchen the other night. I was thinking over the ingredients I had - collard greens, arborio rice, butternut squash, bacon - and it occurred to me that a Butternut Squash, Collard Green and Bacon Risotto would be lovely. Later, I was perusing NewYorkTimes.com, one of my daily staples. I was looking through the recent recipe archives when I came across - you guessed it - Risotto with Butternut Squash, Bacon, and Collard Greens. Had I seen that recipe before, and had it lodged in my gray matter, only to resurface when the time was right? Admittedly, I made a dish very similar to this a couple weeks ago on a random night in with my friend Sarah, but this exact recipe - collard greens and all - well, I suddenly understood Mean-a Irina's irate runway reaction.

Regardless, this risotto is delish, be it hacked or not.



1 smallish butternut squash, cut into smallish chunks
1 T. olive oil
salt and pepper
4 slices natural bacon, cut into small pieces
1 T. olive oil
2 T. butter
1/2 small onion
2 small shallots
2 cloves garlic
1 c. dry Arborio rice
1/2 c. white wine
zest of one lemon
1 container chicken broth (the box container)
2 bunches fresh collard greens, washed and sliced into ribbons
10-12 leaves fresh sage, chopped
salt and pepper
Parmesan cheese for serving (freshly grated)


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the butternut squash chunks in a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roast until soft and beginning to brown at the edges, about 30-40 minutes, stirring around a few times in the baking dish.


In a large, deep pot, fry the bacon pieces until lightly browned. Remove from pot with slotted spoon and set aside. In another, smaller pot, heat the chicken broth, covered, over low heat. In yet another pot, boil some water and boil the collards in it for about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.


Drain almost all the grease from the pot, but do not wipe out (you want the brown bits on the bottom of the pan as well as a little grease). Add the olive oil and butter to this pan over medium heat. Cook the shallots and onion, seasoning with a little salt and pepper, until beginning to soften. Add the dry Arborio rice and stir. Pour in the wine, and stir, scraping the brown bacony leftovers from the bottom of the pan (trust me on this part). Add the garlic and lemon zest. Cook until the rice begins to look translucent.


Add the chicken broth, about a 1/2 cup at a time, and stir constantly until the rice grains have almost completely soaked up the broth. Do this over and over until the broth is gone. Stir in the sage somewhere in the middle of the brothing action. About 5 minutes before you want to stop cooking the risotto (when there is still some broth to be soaked up), stir in the greens, squash, and bacon. Taste and adjust seasoning.


Serve in shallow bowls immediately, and grate some fresh Parmesan over the top. Enjoy!

I'm sure it's no surprise to you that I don't post everything I cook on this blog. If that were the case, you could assume I only eat about once every week or so, and we all know that's not true. Sometimes, I intend on taking photos as I cook, then forget. Sometimes, I'm so hungry that slowing down to take a photo before I eat seems completely absurd. And sometimes, I just plain screw something up and decide not to tell anyone about it.

These pancakes, however, fall somewhere in a gray area - I did sort of screw them up (but I proceeded to eat them anyway). And despite the fact that they were oozingly raw in the center, they photographed beautifully. A second batch actually turned out OK, so I decided to post the recipe with the simple warning to not make the pancakes too thick when you put them in the pan. Unlike raw cookie dough, no one wants to eat raw pancake batter.


INGREDIENTS (not exact recipe I used, but a good recipe from Martha Stewart Living)

1 and 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
2 T. brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder;
1/2 teaspoon each cinnamon, ground ginger, and salt
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
pinch of ground cloves
1 cup milk
6 tablespoons canned pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 egg


Mix together first 6 ingredients. Get a nonstick pan medium-hot.


Mix the remaining ingredients in a separate bowl. Fold mixture into dry ingredients. Melt some butter in the skillet. Pour in 1/4 cup batter for each pancake. Cook pancakes about 3 minutes per side; serve with butter and syrup. Makes 8 to 10.

Other than the raw first batch, these pancakes were a delicious fall indulgence, and so pumpkin-y! We all know at this point how I love a hot, hearty breakfast.

Thanks for reading! More soon...

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