Autumn Grouper with Risotto

Once again, it is time for The Royal Foodie Joust hosted by Jenn, the Leftover Queen!

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
* Oranges
* Sage
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.


  1. Judy says:

    Great entry Peter! Dish looks wonderful!

  2. Ginny says:

    Can I come over for dinner? I love it! How delicious!

  3. Wow you have gone to some serious effort with the photos! I am a big fan of risotto but it is tricky to get it right but it looks as if you have got ust the right consistency. I think it is best as a main course as have tried to have it as a starter lots of times and it has just been too filling! I think pumpkin or squash work particularily well with it! Good job in all the photos!

  4. Joan Nova says:

    Fabulous presentation, execution and explanation. I guess I’m not winning my first RFJ. Congrats!

  5. petermarcus says:

    Judy — Thanks!

    Ginny — Any time :)

    Niall — I’ve made risotto a few times in the traditional manner, but I usually just fake it with arborio cooked the normal rice way, but with wine and stock. It just takes too long to sit there stirring, but man, it’s worth it! It was definitely a rich meal.

    Joan — Thanks! But don’t be so sure. I haven’t come close to winning yet, and I’ve been playing for a few months. There’s some really creative people playing, and it’s always a lot of fun thinking in “Iron Chef” mode!

  6. Peter says:

    I know the star’s supposed to be squash but I keep looking at the nice piece of grouper.

  7. petermarcus says:

    Peter — Well, that nice piece of grouper is coated in the three challenge ingredients, so go for it!

  8. mary says:

    this looks amazing!

  9. so gorgeous and a creative use for those ingredients!

  10. nina says:

    Very clever use of that squash. The taste of your risotto must have been heavenly!

  11. Nate says:

    Amazing recipe and great pics as usual.

    How did you get the orange rind to curl like that?

  12. petermarcus says:

    Mary — Thanks!

    WANF — Thank you, the pictures really turned out well on this one!

    Nina — Thanks! The risotto was really good. Savory, but with a bit of sweetness from the orange and squash.

    Nate — Thanks :) I peeled some rind with the other part of the zester, then see that wooden spoon I’m using to stir the risotto? I wrapped the rind tightly around the thin handle, pushed it all together like a cylinder, held it for a little while, then let go and it sprung into a nice coil.

  13. Lovely entry Peter! It just looks so good and inviting and I love that you added a touch of FL in there with the grouper! Beautiful job! Nice photos Christey!! :)

  14. ValleyWriter says:

    Beautiful presentation & beautiful photos. Congrats on winning runner-up in the Joust!

  15. Joan Nova says:

    congratulations on taking a prize in RFJ — and, congratulations, for creating a beautiful dish and exceptional post.

  16. Laurie says:

    This really is a fabulous dish! The ingredients work so well together.. I love sage and orange.. and I never thought of using acorn squash seeds like this before! Awesome.. and of course your pictorials!!! :) Congratulations!

  17. petermarcus says:

    Jenn — Thanks! A little bit of autumn seafood :)

    Valley, Joan, and Laurie — Thank you! I’m honored to make it to the top-3! And Laurie, the squash seeds look exactly like pumpkin seeds, and they tasted really good. A great crunchy texture for fish or even chicken.

  18. greg says:

    This looks awesome. I just might have to borrow it. Great use of ingredients.