In my never-ending quest to enlighten and bring forth to my readers the newest culinary trends, flavors and seasonings, I offer for your consideration a new (but old) item that is resurfacing on upcoming fall menus.
What is Gremolata?
Pronounced [greh-moh-LAH-tah], gremolata is not actually a dish but rather a topping, generally made from three ingredients: fresh parsley, lemon peel and fresh garlic.
Its claim to fame is that it’s the last and finishing touch to the braised veal shank dish known as Osso Buco. However, it is also used in many other dishes, and chefs are now liberating the classic version’s recipe to introduce many other unique ingredients while still keeping its name.
Thus, unless they spell it out on the menu, it’s hard telling whether you’re getting the classic version or something altogether new (and still perhaps delicious) under the same name.
What is the purpose of gremolata?
In the case of most every dish gremolata is added to, its mission is to provide a fresh, clean and spritely counterpoint to the dish it is garnishing. It’s one of those culinary preparations of which you can truly say that its sum is greater than its parts.
In the case of Osso Buco (a savory, braised veal shank), a sprinkling of gremolata over the finished, plated dish is a welcome and refreshing topping. It allows your taste buds to enjoy the dish just that much more.
Makes about a 1/4 cup
2 TBSP Italian (Flat Leaf) Parsley, Minced
1 TBSP Lemon Zest, Freshly Grated
2 Medium Fresh Garlic Cloves, Minced
1. Mince the parsley and garlic, grate the lemon zest, and toss all together in a small bowl with a fork.
While the classic version is, without a doubt, tried and true, chefs and gourmet cooks have broadened the appeal of gremolata by experimenting (with much success) with other herbs and seasonings, such as:
- Substituting completely chopped shallots for the garlic
- Substituting basil, oregano, tarragon, marjoram, cilantro or even mint for the parsley
- Substituting another citrus, such as lime, orange or grapefruit, for the lemon
So, if you wanted to go crazy, you could make:
- Minted Orange Shallot Gremolata
- Cilantro Lime Garlic Gremolata (or even substitute chives)
And, while I’m not advocating it, I’ve also seen chefs take the liberty of adding a small amount of chopped, toasted pine nuts, grated parmesan cheese (we’re getting close to pesto now) and grated ginger.
Again, the idea is light and refreshing. The more you stray from that objective, the more your gremolata loses its intended functionality.
Besides Osso Buco, gremolatas are often used with braised or grilled beef, lamb or pork, and as garnishes on soups and even roasted fingerling potatoes. The possibilities are somewhat endless.
One last tip…
Because you have a citrus and a green-leaved herb, the two don’t like to cohabit more than a couple of days (like tabbouleh, which is similar), so you’ll want to make only enough for the dish you’re preparing.