The 2010 March Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Eleanor of MelbournefoodGeek and Jess of Jessthebaker. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make risotto. The various components of their challenge recipe are based on input from the Australian Masterchef cookbook and the cookbook Moorish by Greg Malouf.

I did my usual party event out of it and invited friends over to cook: Karyn, Raquel, and Christineh. Since we had one vegetarian we opted for a veggie stock (but I have plenty of frozen turkey stock homemade in the freezer from the holidays…forgive me for skipping that part of the challenge).

I also was given some vanilla pods recently by Elaine at I Heart Vanilla which I wanted to use. I found a recipe for butternut squash and vanilla risotto. For the carnivores I found a Vanilla Chicken recipe (a recipe from Réunion Island) too…so the theme was vanilla and risotto.

Pics are not the best as we had polished off 2 bottles of wine before eating! Food was phenomenal and we had a blast! By the end of the evening 4 bottles of wine were gone, naughty stories were shared, tears of laughter were shed, full stomach were in ecstasy. Dessert included fancy pastries, chocolate covered almonds and homemade chocolate oatmeal raisin cookies by Raquel. What a blast!

Look on the The Daring Kitchen website for the recipes of the challenge. I adapted with the two following recipes:

Butternut Squash and Vanilla Risotto

Originally published by Giada De Laurentiis

  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 large vanilla bean
  • 3 cups peeled cubed (1-inch wide) butternut squash, about 12 ounces
  • 2 tablespoons butter, plus 1 tablespoon
  • 3/4 cups finely chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives


  • In a medium saucepan, warm the broth over medium-high heat. Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds and add them, and the bean, to the broth. When the broth comes to a simmer reduce the heat to low. Add the butternut squash to the simmering broth and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. (Note: I actually cooked my squash cubes for about 15 minutes. It took quite a while for them to become tender.) Using a slotted spoon remove the butternut squash to a side dish. Turn the heat on the broth down to very low and cover to keep warm.
  • Meanwhile, in a large, heavy saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until tender but not brown, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat with the butter. Add the wine and simmer until the wine has almost completely evaporated, about 3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of the simmering broth and stir until almost completely absorbed, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking the rice, adding the broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and allowing each addition to of the broth to absorb before adding the next, until the rice is tender but still firm to the bite and the mixture is creamy, about 20 minutes total. Discard the vanilla bean. Turn off the heat. Gently stir in the butternut squash, Parmesan, the remaining tablespoon of butter, and salt. Transfer the risotto to a serving bowl and sprinkle with chives (Note: or thyme). Serve immediately.

Vanilla Chicken

by My Vanilla Shop

  • 1 chicken
  • 4 onions
  • 2 vanilla beans
  • 6 garlic gloves
  • thyme
  • 1/2 tsp saffron
  • pepper, salt

1. Remove the bones from the chicken and cut into small pieces
2. Braise the chicken until tender
3. Slice onions thinly
4. Grind garlic with salt and pepper
5. Add onions and cook for a few minutes
6. Add the ground garlic and cook for a few minutes
7. Slit the vanilla pod lengthwise and scrape out the seed paste inside.
8. Add the vanilla bean and the vanilla seeds to the chicken
9. Add 2 glasses of water
10. Continue to cook until chicken sauce has reduced