J. Kenji López-Alt's Top Tip For The Most Flavorful Mushroom Risotto

mushroom risotto in bowl on wood table
mushroom risotto in bowl on wood table - Tatiana Volgutova/Getty Images

When it comes to making a vegetarian meal that doesn't compromise on richness, mushroom risotto is one of many right answers. The creamy Italian dish is luxurious enough to stand on its own, with its slow-cooked melange of arborio rice, broth, wine, Parmesan cheese, and other hearty ingredients. Mushrooms add even more dimension with their deeply savory flavor and almost meaty texture. But can this dish get even better?

Here we look to celebrity chef and food science expert J. Kenji López-Alt, who espouses plenty of tips for getting the most flavor out of simple ingredients. In this case, he gives some unexpected advice: Keep the butter out of the saute pan. While he usually uses both extra virgin olive oil and butter to cook mushrooms, he leans solely on the former when cooking mushrooms for risotto.

As the shrooms turn deep golden brown in the very hot saute pan, their moisture evaporates and they shrink to a fraction of their original size. "This is all good news in the flavor-intensification department," Kenji writes in Serious Eats. In the name of science, here's why butter isn't always better for this particular dish.

Read more: 11 Of The Best Cooking Tips From Bobby Flay

Burn Notice: Don't Just Use Butter To Cook Your Mushrooms

Mushrooms in sauté pan
Mushrooms in sauté pan - Candice Bell/Shutterstock

Mushrooms — like zucchini, spinach, tomatoes, and humans — are mostly composed of water. When they start to release their moisture as they cook over high heat, they get thirsty for something to replace it. This is where butter, olive oil, and other kinds of fat come into play. However, not all fats are created equal. While butter and mushrooms are a flavor match made in heaven, the milk solids in butter are prone to burning. Oil, on the other hand, has a higher smoke point, meaning it can handle higher temperatures without burning.

While a little char on your mushrooms isn't always a bad thing — we love seared or grilled mushrooms as much as the next person — it might not play well with the smooth, rounded flavors of mushroom risotto. While Kenji doesn't explicitly recommend it, we would add a dab of butter at the very end of the mushroom-cooking process for extra richness.

Add Mushrooms To Your Risotto Broth, Too

Dried cremini mushrooms
Dried cremini mushrooms - Fotografiabasica/Getty Images

To amp up the umami flavor of his mushroom risotto, Kenji infuses chicken or vegetable stock with a savory "tea" from stock-soaked dried porcinis and mushroom trimmings. In addition to adding a depth of flavor, this method takes the guesswork out of what to do with all those errant mushroom bits and bobs. By the same token, you could replace chicken or vegetable stock with homemade mushroom stock to impart your risotto with an even more comforting, earthy base.

As for what kinds of mushrooms to use, there's no wrong choice. Kenji uses a combination of thinly sliced shiitakes, creminis, oysters, and chanterelles, but you can reach for whatever suits your fancy (or your budget). Shiitakes and portobellos will lend smoky, umami flavor, while chanterelles and oysters will bring a more delicate and peppery taste to the pot. If you're flush with cash, track down a truffle to shave on top of your risotto before serving.

Read the original article on Daily Meal