Gremolata – Add a Spark of Flavor!

I love the cooler weather of fall.  It puts me in the mood to cook!  There’s something about a cool, crisp breeze and overcast skies that puts me in the mood to just spend the day in the kitchen.  Another reason I love fall is because of the heartier richer flavors that emerge again…winter squashes, pungent baking spices like cinnamon and cloves, smoked meats and the deep flavors of long roasted and braised dishes where the flavors have melded and blended into a rich amalgamation of taste.

Although the long braising and stewing time of such dishes is responsible for the development of flavor, it can also result in a heavy “muddy” taste that doesn’t allow any distinct flavor to actually sing.  Despite the time and effort that went into the dish, it can actually be a disappointment…just a singular note of flavor that doesn’t have a high point.



That’s when it’s time to look in the arsenal of flavor and determine what will give the lift needed.  One of my favorites is Gremolata.  Gremolata is the classic Italian garnish for Veal Osso Buco or braised veal shanks.  It’s composed of finely chopped fresh garlic, lemon zest and chopped parsley.

The long, slow cooking of the veal develops an amazing fall of the bone texture in the meat and a luscious rich sauce that almost makes you want to forego the meat and just eat the sauce with some crusty bread!  However, the richness of the sauce will quickly overwhelm the palate and that’s where Gremolata works its magic!  The bright refreshing quality of the parsley combined with the citric note of the lemon zest and the pungency of the garlic all add up to be the equivalent of flavor CPR for the deep-flavored sauce.

Beyond the Recipe…Don’t overlook it for similar situations such as Brussels Sprouts….those little green orbs that are so often overcooked to the point of sliminess.  Cruciferous vegetables (members of the cabbage family) have a deep flavor that can be a bit heavy after a few bites.  The earthiness of Brussels sprouts is enhanced by Gremolata in much the same way as Osso Buco.  Saute the sprouts in butter after blanching them and just before serving, toss with a handful of gremolata and enjoy its aroma and flavor!

Gremolata & Brussels Sprouts with Mushrooms
Brussels Sprouts & Mushrooms with Browned Butter & Gremolata

Brussels Sprouts & Mushrooms with Browned Butter & Gremolata

Yield:  8 Servings

2 pints fresh Brussel Sprouts
6 cloves garlic, minced
½ bunch Italian parsley, finely chopped
Zest of 2 lemons
1 pint white button mushrooms
1 stick butter
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Black pepper

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil.

Trim loose leaves from Brussels sprouts and cut the sprouts in half lengthwise.  Prepare an ice-water bath by filling a large bowl half-full with ice and enough cold water to just start floating the cubes.  When water has come to a boil, blanch the sprouts by placing them  in the boiling water and cook until just tender enough to pierce with a paring knife.  When sprouts are tender, remove from boiling water and shock in the ice bath to stop the cooking process.  Remove from ice water when cooled and drain thoroughly. (Sprouts can be prepared in advance up to this point.  Store in a self-sealing plastic bag or plastic container and refrigerate.  Allow to warm to room temperature to minimize the amount of time needed for sautéing.)

While Brussels sprouts are blanching and cooling, combine the garlic, parsley and lemon zest in a small bowl.  Toss to combine and then set aside.

Trim mushroom stems flush with bottom of mushroom caps.

Melt butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat.  As butter begins to melt it will begin to darken slightly and take on a nutty aroma.  Once butter has browned, add the mushrooms and sauté until lightly browned.  Add brussels sprouts and season with salt and pepper.   Toss to coat with browned butter.

Pour Brussels sprouts and mushrooms into a large serving bowl and sprinkle gremolata over the top.