I’m a strong believer in first impressions. When I met Ms McCabe she had a sparkling diamond on her left hand. “Are you married?” I asked.
“Seven years,” she said.
“Do you have any kids?”
“No,” she said with pursed lips. That was the first time I saw Ms McCabe’s schoolmarm look. She and her husband had several cats, three horses and a dog – no plans for kids. I’m also thankful for second impressions. Thankful she stuck around long enough to have one of me.
Without it, we wouldn’t be friends. Without her, who knows when I would have discovered lemon curd? (If you haven’t had it, it’s the wonderful tart version of jam. Trader Joes makes a great inexpensive one). I may never have found Outlander, by Mary Gabaldon. I probably would have stuck with Butternut Squash Risotto because it’s fabulous. But then, I would have been missing out on Sweet Potato Risotto.
You see, second impressions are a lot like second helpings – flatteringly delicious. Butternut Squash Risotto has mild flavor. Its warm yellow color is lovely. I like it with sharp flavors like cranberries. Sweet Potato Risotto, on the other hand, is bold with a sugary finish. The bright orange color doesn’t look as refined and sometimes it makes me feel a bit like I’m eating dessert with dinner. (Not a fact I complain about mind you). The other good thing about sweet potatoes verses butternut squash is quantity. One squash makes A LOT of risotto. Sweet potatoes give you the luxury of smaller batches.
Due to a big surprise, Ms McCabe’s answer will be changing in about two months. Sadly I’m not in California to throw her a shower or to babysit or to make her Sweet Potato Risotto. I can tell her this – mashed sweet potato freezes just fine (for a while). Once things get hectic, she can always have a back-up meal: potatoes in the freezer; rice, stock and onions in the pantry and throw a little Parmesan into the mix – delicious food without a trip to the grocery store.
Gosh, seconds are great!
Sweet Potato Risotto
I like to use a lot of sweet potato, but you could make it with less. I highly recommend using butternut squash at some point too, just be prepared for leftover squash.
3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed (about 3 cups)
2 2/3 cups chicken stock (vegetable stock works too)
1 TBS olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 tsp salt (plus more to taste)
½ tsp pepper
1 clove garlic, diced
1 cup Arborio rice
¼ dry white wine or vermouth (optional)
½ cup Parmesan
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Drop in potatoes and cook until fork tender, about 15 minutes.
Note: The time will vary based on the size of your cubes.
Strain potatoes. Press through a potato ricer and set aside.
Note: If you don’t have a potato ricer, just mash them by hand. You might have a few chunks of potato in your risotto, but Ms McCabe prefers it this way. Maybe you will too.
Put stock in a pot on a back burner. Turn on low and heat until just warm.
Note: You’re just keeping the liquid warm, not letting it simmer. If it simmers it will evaporate and your ratios will be off.
Heat 1 TBS olive oil in a large pot. Add onion, salt and pepper. Sauté until onion is translucent. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant.
Add rice to pot. Brown, stirring frequently, about 1 minute.
Add wine and allow to completely evaporate.
Add a ¼ cup of the warm stock. Stir twice and allow the stock to evaporate. Continue adding stock, a ¼ cup at a time as it absorbs, stirring twice with each addition.
Note: I like to use a soup ladle. It’s about a ¼ cup and it makes for a really easy transfer.
Once all the stock has been absorbed, stir in sweet potatoes and ¼ cup Parmesan. Check seasonings and adjust as needed.
Serve with a sprinkle of Parmesan on top.