demystifying geng & chip

Wednesdays with Geng and Chip # 3 by geng
November 6, 2008, 4:06 pm
Filed under: Food, General, Geng's corner, Wednesdays with Geng and Chip

Remember this?  We’ve finally decided what to do with the butternut squash from this picture.

Ina Garten’s Saffron Risotto with Butternut Squash from the “Barefoot Contessa Family Style” cookbook. Sounds good doesn’t it? We’ve never prepared risotto before so it is very exciting.  Since we are fairly new to cooking we were surprised to learn that saffron is the most expensive spice on earth. Do you know that an ounce of saffron can go as high as $95 buckaroos?  Yeah, I was like whoa! I refuse to pay $18 for a tiny little jar of saffron. And we’re talking “tiny.”  I held this little spice jar in disbelief bringing it up to the light while shaking it, I couldn’t even see how many threads I’m getting because the precious commodity was inside a sealed packet. The label said .06 oz.  No way!  At first, we debated on whether we should even include saffron to the risotto. Knowing the Barefoot Contessa, I’m sure her risotto would be just as good without it. Luckily, at Wegman’s they sell little packets with maybe 10 threads or so for about $5 bucks. So I thought, okay, I guess maybe it is doable. I heard the flavor of saffron is really intense and that a little goes a long long way. Funny how I never paid attention before.

Saffron Risotto with Butternut Squash
From Ina Garten’s A Barefoot Contessa Family Style
Yield: 4 to 6 servings

1 butternut squash (2 pounds)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
2 ounces pancetta, diced
1/2 cup minced shallots (2 large)
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice (10 ounces)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon saffron threads
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Peel the butternut squash, remove the seeds, and cut it into 3/4 inch cubes. You should have about 6 cups. Place the squash on a sheet pan and toss it with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, tossing once, until very tender. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the chicken stock in a small covered saucepan. Leave it on low heat to simmer.

In a heavy bottomed pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the pancetta and shallots on medium low heat for 10 minutes, until the shallots are translucent but not browned. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains with butter. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add 2 full ladles of stock to the rice plus the saffron, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir, and simmer until the stock is absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes. Continue to add the stock, 2 ladles at a time, stirring every few minutes. Each time, cook until the mixture seems a little dry, then add more stock. Continue until the rice is cooked through, but still al dente, about 30 minutes total. Off the heat, add the roasted squash cubes and Parmesan. Mix well and serve.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED © Ina Garten’s A Barefoot Contessa Family Style

For protein, we thought we’d pair the risotto with grilled pork loin chops.

Grilled Lemon Herb Pork Chops 
Submitted by: DOREENBUCH from
Yields: 6 servings

1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon pepper
6 (4 ounce) boneless pork loin chops

1. In a large resealable bag, combine lemon juice, oil, garlic, salt, oregano, and pepper. Place chops in bag, seal, and refrigerate 2 hours or overnight. Turn bag frequently to distribute marinade.
2. Preheat an outdoor grill for high heat. Remove chops from bag, and transfer remaining marinade to a saucepan. Bring marinade to a boil, remove from heat, and set aside.
3. Lightly oil the grill grate. Grill pork chops for 5 to 7 minutes per side, basting frequently with boiled marinade, until done.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED © 2008 Printed from 11/5/2008

The verdict?

I love warm, gooey, creamy comfort foods. The texture and sweetness of the squash combined with the crispy saltiness of the pancetta and the creamy risotto sure balance each other well. The cheese and wine gave it a lot of flavor. And the saffron?  Well, I now believe the saffron made this dish. It probably would not have tasted this good had we opted to omit this very important ingredient.  It brought all the flavors together and gave it the nice yellow color saffron is well known for.

Risotto reminds me of arroz caldo in the Philippines. Arroz caldo literally translates to “rice soup” although it is thick like risotto.  My mom usually makes this dish on Christmas Eve or when someone is sick with a cold :). It is a much simpler recipe made with very few ingredients such as chicken, short grain rice, garlic, ginger, and chicken stock. Some recipes call for saffron too. A total comfort food. Anyhow, the risotto paired well with the grilled pork loin chop.  Yummo!

Pardon me, we should go workout now. I think we both gained another 10 lbs. :)

8 Comments so far
Leave a comment

This looks wonderful! I just picked up some saffron myself a few weeks ago . I didn’t really need it but wanted it for my spices and I have a big butternut squash so maybe I will make this dish this weekend. I need to buy the rice though. I don’t think I have ever made risotta. Looks divine. I love Ina’s recipes. Oh I have looked at some of your favorite links and I love Pioneer Woman and Dorie Greenspan. I just made Dorie Greenspan’s Swedish visiting cake and it is the most delicious easiest recipe ever. You have to try it and make sure you make it in an iron skillet. Yummo!

Comment by Karen

OMIGOSH, don’t you just love the Pioneer Woman? She’s the funniest thing ever. She also loves to give out stuff like ipods, cameras, printers and such. I check her site everyday to see if she has giveaways. I love her photography too. I adore Dorie Greenspan. I have to try the Swedish visiting cake you mentioned, maybe this Saturday. For the risotto, make sure you get the arborio rice. It’s a lot of work but I swear it’s a religious experience once you taste it. The butternut squash was so good after it came out of the oven we almost ate the whole thing before it got to the risotto.

Comment by geng

I made this risotto recently without the saffron and while it was good, I think it would have been even better with the saffron. Nice job and beautiful presentation!

Comment by Esi

Thanks Esi. I agree the saffron makes this risotto. However, I think I would still try it again without the saffron just to see the difference. :)

Comment by geng

That risotto looks good!

Comment by Kevin

You know why saffron is so expensive, right? Because it is the stigma (tiny sexual part) of a fall-bloooming crocus, and each little flower has only three stigmas, and (I think) they have to be picked by hand on the day they bloom. It takes about 150 flowers to get one gram of dried saffron and a football-field sized field to get one pound.

Comment by nbmandel

The risotto looks and sounds just amazing. You really can’t go wrong with Ina, right? :-)

Comment by PaniniKathy

Thanks Kevin. Yes, even the leftovers were good.

nbmandel, wow, i did not know that. You learn something new everyday.

PaniniKathy, yes, you can’t go wrong with Ina. Love her. ;)

Comment by geng

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