Thanksgiving Risotto

So, why am I posting about Thanksgiving in February? The gloomy days of November have come and gone long ago, making way for the gloomy days of February, and I still have the flavors of Thanksgiving on the brain?

Thanksgiving Risotto

This dish was inspired by a dish posted on one of my first and favorite food blogs, Thyme for Cooking. Even though there’s more to turkey than Thanksgiving, for some reason, seeing Katie’s dish just got me thinking “I want Thanksgiving food tonight” and this is what came of it. The idea was something hearty, comfort-foodish, and Thanksgiving all on one plate without the day(s) long marathon of stress and cooking way too much. I did this by making a creamy butternut squash risotto infused with sage (my reason for entering in this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Erin from The Skinny Gourmet) and topped off with spiced strips of Turkey tenderloin and reconstituted dried cranberries–all very Thanksgivingy flavors. I also still had cornbread muffins leftover from preparing chili. Too bad there was no Thanksgiving vacation to go with it. 😉 The dish did just what I needed–satisfied the craving, left me in a happy stupor, and was a quick endeavor (for a weekday meal!). Definitely a fun change and definitely a lot of Thanksgiving components all in one dish.

  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • 1 shallot
  • ~2 cups butternut squash (for me, that was half of one medium sized squash)
  • 5 Tbsp butter
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup sage leaves
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • salt
  • pepper
  • ~1.7 5lbs turkey tenderloins
  • spice rub
    • cinnamon
    • nutmeg
    • paprika
    • cumin
    • pepper
    • salt
    • coriander
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Warm the broth and add the diced sage leaves so that it can flavor the broth while you work

In a saucepan, pour in all of the chicken broth and put this over low heat. Dice the sage leaves somewhat finely and throw this into the broth. You want to give it a chance to flavor the broth while you do everything else. You’ll need this broth warm later when you’re actively preparing the risotto.

Peel, deseed, and dice the butternut squash

So on to everything else. Begin by preparing the fresh ingredients. Peel, halve, and deseed the butternut squash. You might have way too much squash for this dish (or if you love squash, maybe its just right!), so be prepared to set some of it aside in the fridge for another day. I only used about half of the squash. Dice what you’re using up into small chunks–figure you’ll need about 2 cups or so squash, give or take. Set this aside. Finely dice up the shallot and set this aside as well.

Dice the turkey tenderloin and rub it with spices

In a small bowl, mix together the spice mixture. My thinking here was something savory like ras el hanout (a rub used in the Moroccan styled lemon & olive chicken), but also, the kind of flavors you’d get in pumpkin pie or a butternut squash soup (but without worrying about mixing it into the squash). When it came to making this dish, my thought was if it makes you think Thanksgiving food for even a second, it goes in. 😮

Brown the spiced turkey, cooking like you would chicken

So what to do with the spices? Well, on to the turkey. No day long roast for us–you can treat the tenderloins like you would chicken. So dice these up into bite-sized pieces and rub them all over with the spice mixture. Cook the pieces in some hot oil for about 10-15 minutes or so until they’re cooked all the way through and then set aside.

Sauté the shallot and squash in butter

Now, melt down all but one tablespoon of the butter. Then, add in the diced shallot and chunked squash, sautéing to soften them up a bit and get some nice flavors out in the air, figure somewhere around five minutes. Also, is your broth on heat? You might want to raise the heat a little at this point, but no higher than medium. You don’t want it bubbling–just nice and warm.

Add the risotto, toasting briefly

Then, add in the dry risotto (still on medium heat). This gives the rice a chance to toast and crisp up a bit on the outside before we go and load it up with liquid. Toss this around a bit, letting it toast for somewhere around three minutes or so. Then, add in the wine, stirring until almost all of the liquid has been absorbed.

Continue to stir in the broth

And now begins the characteristic process of making risotto: scoop in a small amount of the warm broth (about 1/4 cup at a time), stir somewhat constantly, and then, once almost all of the liquid has been dried up, repeat the process. I tried to avoid adding in the slivers of sage until the very last few batches, just to prevent mushing it all up with all of the stirring. Figure that this process will take you somewhere around 15-20 minutes. As you near the end of the broth (e.g. you figure 2 or 3 more scoops are left), put the dried cranberries into the broth so that they have some time to soften up without turning the broth bright red or going to mush.

Add in the last of the broth, sage, reconstituted cranberries, butter, cheese, and turkey

As you finish stirring in the last bit of broth, take this off of the heat, add the grated Parmigiano Reggiano and the last tablespoon of butter, stirring until it just melts into the risotto. Once it is incorporated and temptingly creamy looking, add in the reconstituted cranberries and cooked turkey from earlier. Stir a bit more, giving the turkey a chance to warm up a bit again in the presence of the warm risotto.

Garnish a mound with other seasonal elements: pecans, fried sage leaves, etc

To serve, I tried to sex things up a bit by frying some sage leaves in butter, topping off a mound of this intentionally not seasonal dish with the crisp sage leaves and some pecans for added crunch and autumnal nostalgia (funny, I don’t even like autumn!).


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20 Responses to “Thanksgiving Risotto”

  1. aforkfulofspaghetti Says:

    That’s as pretty as a picture, Mike! Looks very edible indeed…

  2. Lydia Says:

    Great combination of flavors — and totally seasonal. You can take the leftovers and make arancini, and keep Thanksgiving going for another day or two! Nice to see a recipe on Valentine’s Day that doesn’t have chocolate.

  3. Meeta Says:

    WOW! Thanksgiving or Valentine’s this is a lovely risotto here. I love the flavors you have going on here, especially with the spice rub.

  4. Bellini Valli Says:

    This dish turns my favourite butternut squash risotto into an entire meal…complete with turkey. Genius 😀

  5. Nora Says:

    Hey Mike,
    That’s a sexy dish appropriate for Valentine’s Day 😉 I am sure that your wife appreciated the effort, it certainly looks delicious. I like Katie’s recipes a lot too.

    I am growing to like turkey – it’s not a common meat while growing up in Singapore. I roasted a turkey for the first time last July. Boy, that was an interesting experience, it was a pretty big bird! Turkey also has a distinctive smell. Aussies like to host “Christmas in July” parties (
    08/chirstmas-in-july-report.html) since that’s when it’s actually cold enough to have a hot roasted meal.

  6. mike Says:

    aforkful — thanks! :-) I was originally worried the photo might look a little too dessert-like… *shrugs*

    Lydia — thanks! And very good call on the arancini. Next time I make risotto, that is a sure thing…

    Meeta — I’m slowly making up for all of the years when I didn’t eat risotto, my new favorite side/main. Thanks!

    Bellini — you’re too kind! Thanks :-) I’d started the season strong with squash and then sort of forgot about them…they were looking at me with those eyes in the grocery store and the guilt kicked in. 😉

    Nora — haha, it went over well, indeed. Yeah, handling a whole turkey for the first time can definitely be an awkward experience. When I roast a whole bird, I like to brine it for 24 hours, so then there’s the added awkwardness of having a big bird as well as the precarious bag full of liquid, that somehow, by some miracle, has to fit in the fridge…and that’s very interesting about the summer xmas celebrations!

  7. Archana Says:

    Hey mike, i love risottos. You have given such clear cut methods and what has to be done when. fantastic pictures make a great dish for a valentines day. Though we dont eat meat, what do you think would be a good vegetarian option, how about adding proccoli as well?

  8. Erin @ Skinny Gourmet Says:

    Mike- Delicious! I feel like I have been looking and looking for a risotto recipe that impresses me with its flavors and healthfulness, and I think this might be it. As soon as I am back where I can lay hands on the ingredients I have to give this a try!

  9. Susan from Food Blogga Says:

    Ha! I thought my reader was wrong when I saw the title. Now, I see why. This is worth posting in February. It looks and sounds warm and satisfying. Just right for a wintertime meal.

  10. Toni Says:

    Mike, this is a flash of inspiration. I adore risotto, and I’m addicted to anything with butternut squash. To add the cranberries and turkey though, is inspirational. Love it! I’m bookmarking this page for futures….

  11. Nina Says:

    I’m tagging you to join the “Braisy Chain” if you have’t already. Details at:

    Participation optional, of course…

  12. mike Says:

    Archana — welcome and thanks! Glad you find the instructions helpful. I’m not a huge broccoli person, so my opinion on that is a little biased. 😉 However, I would think things like cauliflower, leeks, and mushrooms would all work quite wonderfully with these flavors (and also keep with the “thanksgiving” theme of it).

    Erin — thanks! I hope you do and I hope you enjoy it! I’m only recently coming to appreciate the versatility of risotto.

    Susan — haha, yeah, I was expecting confusion with this one and got a confused look when I pitched the dinner idea by name to my wife, but in the end, somehow, just like you said, it seems winter appropriate. Thanks!

    Toni — thanks! :-) Nothing like having a whole holiday in one plate, right? Let me know how it goes!

    Nina — I’d be delighted. I’ll try to have a braise-worthy post up in the coming days…

  13. Kevin Says:

    Great looking risotto!

  14. Osso Bucco from Mike's Table Says:

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  15. Kalyn Says:

    This sounds just fantastic. What a great combination of flavors. Great photos too.

  16. mike Says:

    Kevin — thanks! :-)

    Kalyn — thanks, I appreciate it!

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