My risotto sob story...

January 19, 2011
Risotto has been my "safe-haven" dish to order at restaurants since my newfound Celiac-alishousness, as I often call it,  that requires a strict gluten-free diet.  Boy, is it one tasty safe-haven.  Risotto is comfort food at its finest, people.  
While vacationing in Miami over Christmas, Pete and I relied on eating out for the majority of our meals.  This is highly unusual, as we eat in every night during the week and occasionally enjoy a weekend dinner out with friends.  I am not a picky person nor do I ever want to be perceived as such.  However, having a gluten allergy requires me to request that meals be prepared in a specific way.  I'm doing my best to be more outspoken about it, but it's tough because I always feel as if I'm putting others out.  As silly as it may seem, it's embarrassing to perform an interrogation before every meal.  

In Miami, I spent a full week ordering salads for my meals out because there weren't any clear gluten-free options at many of the restaurants we visited.  Salads are generally easy to order because they don't require that you specify the need to "hold this," "add this," "make sure there's no," etc.  In any case, I was done with salad.  I would have been content to never look at another piece of lettuce for the rest of my life.  I was starving.  I was dying for a substantial meal.

We found this lovely Italian restaurant with candle-lit outdoor seating, and upon first glance of the menu, I knew this place was the bees knees.  Risotto!  I spotted risotto!  Naturally gluten-free, don't-have-to-make-extra-requests, deliciously-filling-and-creamy RISOTTO!  

I happily announced my order and handed the waiter my restaurant card, as per my usual dining out routine.  Even though my orders are always chosen because they're inherently gluten-free, I use the card to make sure the chef is clear and there are no contamination issues.  

There I sat imagining my delightful dinner-to-come when low and behold, out comes a gentleman who introduced himself as the manager of the restaurant.  Restaurant card in hand, the man leaned over the table to inform me that I was better off just ordering a salad.  No, sir.  I'm fairly well-educated in gluten-freedom and I know good and well that risotto is fine for me.  He disagreed.  Mister Manager went on to say, "With all the things you're allergic to on this list, I can't imagine you can find anything to eat."  Just choose a salad. I tried to explain.  I tried.  He disagreed.   I ordered a salad.  And do you know what?  

I cried on the salad.

I covered those lettuce leaves in salty tears.  I was angry...and hungry.  And I didn't want a salad.  

So when I got home, I made myself risotto.  Gluten-free risotto.   I loved it and didn't even cry on it.  

Perhaps you're wondering what makes risotto different from other rice? It requires a short, roundish, high-starch rice (like Arborio) that has the ability to absorb its cooking liquid. When cooking it, the rice will seem to be get dry and you'll slowly add stock, repeating this process until the rice is cooked through and all the stock has been absorbed. The starch from the rice eventually thickens the surrounding liquid, making it rich and creamy.

Butternut Squash Risotto

Yields 2 servings
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 3-4 cups gluten-free stock (preferably vegetable)
  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • Pre-heat oven to 425˚.  Cut butternut squash in half and brush both sides with olive oil.  Sprinkle salt and pepper on cut sides.  
  • Place cut side down on a lined baking pan and roast for 45-55 minutes until squash is tender.  Remove from oven and let cool.  
  • Once cooled a bit, scoop out the squash into a large bowl and mash until smooth.  (A food processor may also be used, but I don't like cleaning hand-mashed it is!)
  • In a medium pot, heat your stock to a simmer.  
  • In another pot, melt butter with olive oil and add your onions.   Saute until the onions are tender and translucent.  
  • Stir in the rice and mix with onions.  Once rice has cooked for 1-2 minutes (the rice will also begin to look translucent), pour in the wine and continue to stir until absorbed.  
  • Once wine is absorbed, add two ladles of stock and stir.  
  • Once stock is slowly absorbed, keep adding/absorbing stock until risotto until the rice is tender with just a little bite to the rice.
  • When risotto is near done, stir in butternut squash, parmesan cheese, and salt/pepper to taste.