Nostalgia is a powerful tool in the chef’s arsenal. It’s a direct line to the hearts and minds of your guests. It's that smell from mama’s kitchen. It's that flavor, which will always remind you of home. Or that memory of togetherness around a family table, the food you ate and the happy memories you shared. Would it surprise you to know that nostalgia is a topic taught in culinary school? Well it is, and for very good reason because with nostalgia you can create a dish that will not only taste divine, but also speaks to the diner’s soul. That’s how pumpkin risotto ended up on my menu.
Pumpkin Risotto (with peas and spicy pumpkin seeds)
1⁄4 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 quart of chicken stock
1 cup of water
1⁄4 cup white wine
1 shallot (chopped fine)
15 oz. pumpkin puree
1 1/3 cups risotto rice
3/4 cup English peas (can use frozen green peas)
1 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese grated fine
3 Tbls. Pumpkin seeds
Salt and pepper
Fresh sage (garnish)
When you are ready to make the risotto, place a medium size pan over a medium-‐ low flame. Add two ounces of butter. Once the butter has melted, add the shallots, a pinch of salt and allow the shallots to sweat. When the shallots have sweated and begun to turn translucent, add the rice and stir to coat the rice in butter (if the mixture looks too dry, you can add a little more butter before adding the rice). Raise the flame to medium and continue to stir vigorously for about one to two minutes. However, do not allow the rice or shallots to take on any color. Add the wine and stir it into the rice until it cooks off. Return the flame to medium-‐low and add the last half (5 oz.) of pumpkin puree, the cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir to combine completely and add your first ladle full of stock.
Plate the risotto into warmed bowls and top with the toasted pumpkin seeds and a rough chop of sage leaves. Serve.