You would be so surprised to know how damn easy this was. Seriously. I can't even make regular rice. I really can't. I burn it or undercook it or overcook it every single time which is why I invested in a rice cooker last year. Good ol' rice cooker. How did I ever live without you?
I had this crazy idea mostly because I seem to have bought quite a lot of canned pumpkin recently and I don't remember why. I bought some for the pie that much I know, but that recipe didn't even use the whole can. So I used some for an attempt at pumpkin pie granola (epic fail), and I was even able to make some half-assed pumpkin butter with the rest. So I had it finally whittled down to one acceptable jumbo can of pumpkin for just-in-case pumpkin cravings, and then I went and bought another can last week. Why? To keep the first jumbo can of pumpkin company in my pantry, obviously.
As I was trying to think of something clever for vegetarian night (damn, I hate coming up with meatless meals sometimes), it hit me. Pumpkin risotto! I've always wanted to try making risotto. I've enjoyed it at many restaurants. I like rice quite a lot. I just made two batches of chicken stock, so I finally had stock just waiting around to be used for something other than soup. It seemed perfect! (I just realized that the inclusion of chicken stock doesn't make this a vegetarian meal in the true sense of the word. But we are not vegetarians. Our meatless nights more or less translate into no obvious inclusions of meat.)
So I thought I could easily find some sort of recipe for pumpkin risotto, but that search netted me absolutely nothing. Well. Not nothing, but nothing that had canned pumpkin. Oh, take your little sugar pumpkin and cube it and cook it and blah blah. I have two jumbo cans of pumpkin in my cupboard already, and I've never seen a sugar pumpkin in a store ever.
So instead, I consulted Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything. He really does tell you how to cook everything. I'm not saying all of the recipes are great (cuz they aren't), but at least you can learn the method for cooking certain dishes which is honestly half the battle for any type of cooking you do.
Now I don't want to toot my own horn or anything, but this was the best risotto I've ever had. And I've only ever had it in restaurants, so I feel like that's really saying something. As with all dinner recipes, this is just a guideline. You may have to add more or less stock depending on the rice you use. Maybe you'd like it cheesier. You may have some vegetables in the fridge you want to use up. Have fun with it. It's only dinner.
Pumpkin Risotto (serves 2 for dinner or more if used as an appetizer)
based on Mark Bittman's vegetable risotto from How to Cook Everything
2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1/2 cup canned pumpkin (I feel like I could have used more)
5 dried shitakii mushrooms, soaked in boiling water until softened, sliced (optional)
1 cup rice (I used jasmine. I think arborio's ideal, but it obviously doesn't matter)
3 cups stock (chicken, beef, vegetable whatever you want), kept at low heat in a pot on the stove
salt and pepper (to taste)
paprika and red pepper flakes (to taste)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup (or more) parmasan cheese (I just used the boring shaker style. I should really buy the real deal next time.)
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium high heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute until soft. Mix in pumpkin and mushrooms (if using). You may need to add an extra tablespoon of oil here (as I did), but if the mixture isn't too dry, you probably don't have to bother. Add rice and stir until completely coated with the oil and pumpkin. A couple minutes of stirring should be fine.
To start, add about 1/2 - 1 cup of stock to the rice and pumpkin mixture (I used a soup ladle to add my hot stock which made the whole process a lot easier). You don't have to stir it continuously, but stir it frequently enough so it doesn't cook to the bottom of the pan. Keep adding stock, a little at a time, just as the last addition is almost completely absorbed into the rice. You don't want the rice to be either thick and sticky or wet and soupy, you want to keep it at a nice creamy consistency. After about 20 minutes, you can start tasting the rice to determine whether it's done, and you can also add your salt and pepper and other spices to taste. I learned from MB that the rice is supposed to be cooked like pasta, a little al dente, as it will continue to soak up liquids even after you stop cooking it. Once you reach the point where you've determined your rice is finished to your liking (soft with a slight bite to it), add the butter and cheese and mix until fully incorporated and melted into creamy goodness. Serve immediately.