Last month, Susan at Sticky Gooey Creamy Chewy won the Joust, which entitled her to pick this month’s three ingredients. Susan picked:
* Acorn Squash
Some nice autumn ingredients, even though it’s still mostly in the 80s here in coastal Florida.
I scratched my head on this a bit, since I’m not much of a squash person, but once I researched acorn squash and found that the seeds can be roasted like pumpkin seeds, I knew what I was going to do. Christey suggested risotto (I was leaning toward something side-dishy, I think).
So, I present pan-fried grouper crusted in sage, orange rind, and roasted acorn squash seeds, over a squash, orange, and sage risotto:
I have found that acorn squash is actually the same species as pumpkin and several other squashes, in much the same way that poodles, St Barnards, and golden retrievers are all the same species of dog, just different breeds.
I started by chopping an acorn squash in half, then reserving the seeds. I preheated the oven to 450, sprayed some foil with cooking spray, sprayed the seeds and salted with kosher, then into the oven until brown and toasty (about 5-10 minutes, it helps to shake them a bit during the last couple minutes).
I lowered the oven to 350, put the squash in a roasting pan, put an inch or so of water in the bottom, then tossed on some olive oil and salt, covered with foil, and roasted/baked the squash for about 40 minutes.
For the risotto, I measured 1/2 cup of arborio rice, and chopped a shallot.
I also started the liquid — 2 cups chicken stock, the juice of half an orange, half the chopped shallot, a half dozen sage leaves, 1/2 cup sparkling wine (or any white), and 1/2 cup water. The idea was the sage would flavor the risotto liquid and the essence would make its way into the rice. The orange juice would hopefully do the same.
Once the liquid was simmering gently, I heated up some butter and the remaining chopped shallots in a pot, and sweated the shallots until tender. I added the rice and stirred until the outer layer started to get a little translucent, then ladled in enough stock to barely cover the rice. I kept stirring the risotto until the liquid was absorbed, then added another ladle, over and over, for about 30-40 minutes (about the time it took to finish roasting the squash). When I was done, there was maybe 1-2 ladles left of liquid, but I didn’t need it, the rice was tender.
The squash was tender, so I took it out to cool
Meanwhile, I took a few tablespoons of the squash seeds and threw them in my mini-processor with some chopped sage, a teaspoon or so of orange rind, 1/2 tablespoon of kosher salt, and about 1 1/2 tablespoons of flour, and processed the mixture until the seeds were chopped and the sage was mixed through.
I took my grouper fillet and covered with the seed/rind/sage mixture and patted it in
I changed the oven up to 400, then heated my 12 pan over medium-high and added a tablespoon of olive oil. When shimmering, I added the grouper, good-side down, then sprinkled some more mixture on the back end of the fillet. I browned the first side of the fish, then flipped and put the whole pan in the oven for 15 minutes to cook through.
Then, I chopped some squash roughly, added 2 tablespoons of butter and the squash to the risotto, then stirred it into creamy deliciousness.
The fish came out of the oven
Then plating was risotto, fish on top, garnish, and a little bit of orange juice drizzled over everything instead of lemon juice.
Deconstruction: This turned out better than I had hoped. The risotto had all three flavors, without any one ingredient overwhelming the other. It was a sweetish risotto with the squash and orange, but not overwhelmingly so — it went well with fish like a lot of salsas and chutneys do with just that bit of fruit. The crispy fish coating was perfect (and the seeds were addictive — Christey and I were munching on the extras while cooking/shooting dinner).
2-3 tbsp roasted acorn squash seeds
2-3 sage leaves, chopped
1 tsp orange rind
1/2 tbsp kosher salt
1 1/2 tbsp unbleached flour
2 tbsp olive oil
Process all but olive oil in blender or food processor until seeds are chopped and sage is distributed. Pack coating onto grouper, then pan-sear one side of the grouper in the olive oil over medium-high heat, flip, then put pan and fish into a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes (more or less depending on thickness of the fish — about 10 minutes per inch).
1/2 cup arborio rice
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup white wine (or sparkling)
1/2 cup water
1/2 orange, juiced
5-6 sage leaves
1/2 roasted acorn squash
1 tbsp + 2 tbsps butter
1 shallot, chopped
1 tsp kosher salt (or to taste)
Simmer chicken stock, wine, water, orange juice, whole sage leaves, and half the shallots. Sweat the other half shallot in 1 tbsp butter in a pot, then add rice and stir until the outer layer gets translucent. Ladle in simmering liquid, until rice is just covered, and stir until the rice absorbs the liquid. Repeat until rice is done, about 30-40 minutes. Add 2 tbsp of butter and the chopped squash and stir gently until butter and squash have been absorbed.