I come to you today with a public service announcement, prefaced by a question or two: When was the last time you backed up the files on your computer?
A week? A month? Never?
Folks, it might be time to do a little autumn cleaning. Consider the stuff stored on that computer of yours. I did not give it much thought until ours went kaput during a thunderstorm three weeks ago.
That Sunday evening, as Steve and I sat chatting, an almighty bolt of lightening illuminated the room, sucking away the light from our lamps and causing us to jump (and me to screech) at the blast of simultaneous thunder. A nearby transformer popped like a turquoise firework.
When the lights came back on, our computer was dead and unresponsive.
As if trapped in a near-death experience, I caught mental glimpses of what we had lost: our wedding vows; photos from our pre-marriage years, from our wedding, our honeymoon, our family gatherings, the infancies of our niece and nephew. A photo of my husband's grandfather, whom we lost in August, teaching my husband how to carve a turkey at our first Thanksgiving dinner as a married couple.
We had not backed up any of it, the most important things we own.
I could not even cry. Steve went into overdrive the next morning, searching for companies that could rescue hard drives. And, bless him, he found a place that would operate on the machine and tell us whether our information could be recovered.
It could and they did.
This weekend, Steve transferred all of those precious things to our new computer. We have a backup as well.
So, what's on your computer? Perhaps you should think about backing it up, just in case.
I tend to make risotto during times of emotional turmoil. The computer crash called for comfort food, big time. This recipe has all the creaminess of good risotto, plus savory roasted squash and a zing of goat cheese. It is good for the worried soul.
Shiitake Mushroom Risotto with Roasted Acorn Squash and Goat Cheese
A Fritter Original
1 whole acorn squash, halved and seeded
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus 1 teaspoon
1/8 cup of shallots, minced
1/2 cup of risotto rice
1/4 cup of Amontillado sherry (a tawny sherry with caramel notes)
6 cups of chicken stock
1/2 pound of fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and wiped clean, sliced into 1/4-inch pieces
2 teaspoons of soft (sometimes labeled "fresh") goat cheese
1 teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves, divided into 1/2 teaspoon amounts
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Take the acorn squash halves and drizzle with 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper, then place the squash cut-side down on a sheet of aluminum foil on a baking sheet. Roast the squash for 25 minutes, until tender (insert a knife through the rind; if it slides in easily, the squash is done). Set aside to cool to room temperature.
In a medium saucepan, heat the chicken stock over medium-high heat until it simmers. Reduce the heat to low and cover.
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a separate medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and stir to coat in the olive oil. Saute the shallots, stirring occasionally, until they are translucent.
Add the risotto rice and stir to coat the rice in the oil and shallots. Allow the rice to toast, stirring, for 2 minutes. Stir the Amontillado sherry into the rice and reduce the liquid by half (about 2 minutes), while continuing to stir.
In half-cup amounts, begin adding the hot chicken stock. Continue to stir between additions of stock, until the liquid is absorbed almost completely. You will start to feel viscosity as the time to add more stock approaches. Continue adding stock until the rice is al dente.
Meanwhile, cut cubes of roasted squash away from the rind. Once the risotto is al dente, add one more 1/2 cup of chicken stock then gently fold the squash and shiitake mushrooms into the risotto. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste, and reduce the heat to low. Let the risotto sit until the mushrooms and squash are heated through.
Ladle servings of risotto into shallow bowls and sprinkle the fresh thyme leaves and goat cheese over the top. Serve while piping hot.
Earthy red wines pair well with this dish. We drank a 2002 Don Pascual Tannat that complemented the subtle shiitakes in the risotto.