Chardonnay is a varietal that's difficult to pair with foods. But the creamy, buttery sweetness of butternut squash makes a good complement to wine. The same is true of tarragon, which in small amounts is a delicious backdrop for most chardonnays. Utterly satisfying, this pairing is comfort food and comfort wine at its best.
1 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 3 1/2 cups)
2 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 1/3 cups water
2 tablespoons Madeira wine or sweet Marsala
1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon
4 ounces chopped pancetta
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup uncooked Arborio rice or other short-grain rice
2/3 cup (about 2 1/2 ounces) 1/2-inch-cubed Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
Fresh tarragon sprigs (optional)
How to Make It
Preheat oven to 475°.
Place squash on a nonstick jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 475° for 20 minutes or until tender, turning after 10 minutes.
Reduce oven temperature to 325°.
Combine broth, water, wine, and tarragon in a saucepan; bring to a simmer. Keep warm over low heat.
Cook pancetta in a large ovenproof Dutch oven over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove pancetta from pan; drain on a paper towel. Discard pan drippings. Add onion and oil to pan; sauté 10 minutes or until onion is tender. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute. Add rice to pan; sauté 1 minute. Stir in broth mixture; bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat, and simmer over low heat, uncovered, for 10 minutes. (Do not stir; rice will have a liquid consistency similar to stew.)
Place pan in oven; bake at 325° for 15 minutes. Remove from oven. Stir in the squash, pancetta, cheese, salt, and pepper. Cover with a clean cloth; let stand 10 minutes (rice will continue to cook). Sprinkle with pine nuts. Garnish with tarragon sprigs, if desired.
Perfect wine: Clos du Val Chardonnay 2001 (Carneros, CA), $ This chardonnay has refined flavors reminiscent of custard, caramel, apple tarts, and honey. There's a hint of oak, but the wine is not superbuttery, oaky, or toasty. This wine is complemented by the savoriness of the rice and the sweetness of the squash.