On top of all that, November is the busiest month of the year at my job. I work for a small non-profit membership association. So small in fact, that due to cut-backs over the years, I am now the sole paid employee. The last one standing, so to speak. 11 months out of the year it's not that bad. I've learned to adapt to being the only one in the office, and I've figured out how to manage the workload just fine. Except for November, when I really miss having co-workers, and having people to share the workload with. I could use about 4 of me, just for the one month. There are meetings on top of meetings in November- Board Meetings, Delegates Meetings, Committee Meetings, and our year-end Trophy Party. Organizing the hundreds of trophies that get handed out at the party could be a full-time job on it's own in November. November is the month we prepare the budget for the next year. It's the month we prepare our annual publication, with all the information our members need to participate in the association the following year, and I have learned that printers do not like it when you miss their deadlines. It's the month we finalize our event calendar for the following year- over 850 events that need coordinated between government agencies and local organizations. It's insanity really.
So yeah, November often feels like it's out to get me. Thankfully, I can retreat to my kitchen when I need a stress break and whip up something delicious (and hopefully something quick) with my favorite fall ingredients. Squash, root vegetables, greens, apples, pears, nuts- they are all in season and the produce stand is full of them.
Tonight's dinner at the Munoz's utilizes probably my favorite fall ingredient, butternut squash. I can eat roasted cubes of the orange goodness all day long, it's like candy. I've got a slew of recipes that call for it. Tonight I am making a double batch, some to use tonight in my risotto, and some to use for Taco Tuesday. Stay tuned for that recipe tomorrow, but for now...
Roasted Squash & Sausage Risotto
1 large butternut squash, or 2 small, peeled, seeded & cut into small 1" cubes
1 Tbsp dried thyme
Salt & pepper
1 pkg sweet Italian turkey sausage
2 shallots, finely diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup arborrio rice
½ cup marsala wine
5 cups chicken broth
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
- Roast the squash. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Toss the cubed squash with olive oil, thyme, cayenne pepper (how much depends on how spicy you like things), salt &pepper and spread out on a rimmed baking sheet (you may need 2) lined with parchment paper. Roast the squash for about 45 minutes, until it is softened and slightly carmelized. Take half of the roasted squash, put it in a container and refrigerate for use in a later recipe.
- Cook the Sausage. While the squash is roasting, cook the whole sausage links in a pan until browned & cooked through. Remove from pan, let cool slightly and slice into ¼" rounds. Cover to keep warm.
- Warm up the chicken broth. While you are cooking the sausage, bring the chicken broth to a simmer in a small pot. Keep the chicken broth gently simmering while cooking the risotto.
- Get the Risotto going. Run olive oil around the bottom of a risotto pan (dutch oven type pot). Sauté the shallots over medium heat for a few minutes until they start to soften, then add in the garlic and cook for another minute or two. Add the rice and continue to sauté over medium heat for another 2 minutes or so. Season with salt & pepper. Add the marsala wine and stir gently until almost all the wine has been absorbed.
- Add in the chicken stock, a little at a time. Once the wine has been absorbed, start adding the hot chicken broth, ½ cup at a time, gently stirring over medium heat until almost all the liquid has been absorbed before adding more broth. Continue this process until the risotto is done, about 20 minutes. You may not need to use all 5 cups of the chicken broth. You'll know the risotto is done when it gets creamy looking and the grains are soft but still a little firm (al dente) when you bite one.
- Add in the sausage & squash. Once the risotto is done, remove from the heat, stir in ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, the sliced sausage & the roasted squash cubes.
- Serve! Serve immediately. A nice merlot goes great with this dish.
Regardless of what you may have heard, risotto is actually really easy to make, and pretty quick to make as well. Usually risotto recipes call for lots of butter, but I leave it out completely. I find a little olive oil works just as well, and the chicken broth adds enough richness that I don't miss the butter at all. You could also use regular Italian pork sausage if you wanted, but I use the Turkey variety to help keep the dish a little lighter. Just make sure you use the sweet Italian variety- it plays off the spicy squash really well.