Is Rosemary that Bitter
July 9, 2012 3:41 AM   Subscribe

Cooking Help: Is too much Rosemary causing these slow-cooked meat braises to get too bitter? Last night I did a slow roast / semi-braised Lamb shoulder (bone in) and there was this familiar bitterness that I've noticed before in my cooking and other peoples cooking. From memory I am associating it with Rosemary being present. Its hard to remember exactly but I feel that rosemary is usually involved. But I think there is also often whole sliced lemon involved.

Last nights dish was; Lamb Shoulder, slow roasted with some white wine, rosemary, thyme, pepper, garlic shards stuck into the flesh, sea salt, a little olive oil, zest of lemon and also I stuck a few slices of whole lemon in around the meat.

Was it too much Rosemary?
Was it the Lemon Pith?
Was it both?
Was it something else entirely?

Also the bitterness seemed stronger (only present) in the outer flesh that had more direct contact with the braising liquid. Oh and although everyone else denied the bitterness was present, I think they were just being polite.
posted by mary8nne to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Lamb has a natural sweetness but you're pairing it up against a lot of bitter, woody and acidic ingredients. Where you've burnt the outside of the lamb it will be more bitter anyway.

In short: you're overdoing it on what you're slow roasting it with. Almost anything is going to come out quite bitter cooked that way,I'd guess. Select far fewer ingedients.
posted by MuffinMan at 3:48 AM on July 9, 2012

Garlic, when even slightly browned, can be extremely bitter, which is why people tend to roast it whole in its skin (which helps to prevent the edible part from burning). If the garlic shards have turned brown during cooking, they've almost certainly swamped the flavour of the other ingredients with that awful burnt-garlic taste.
posted by pipeski at 4:01 AM on July 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

Garlic, when even slightly browned, can be extremely bitter
It's likely the full lemon slices you're putting in

Could be a combination of both. Also, try to add a little sugar, and perhaps a bit more olive oil and white wine.
posted by iviken at 4:14 AM on July 9, 2012

I was just watching an episode of "Cook's Country" last night whe they were doing a pot roast, and they made a point of only putting rosemary into the liquid for the last 5 minutes, and then removing it, because it would cause bitterness.
posted by jferg at 5:01 AM on July 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

I too blame the Rosemary. Was it dried or fresh? I've noticed some bitterness when roasting meats using dried Rosemary.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 7:44 AM on July 9, 2012

Response by poster: It was fresh Rosemary. Picked from a living plant moments before use. It was quite a long cooking time (3+ hours at about 120-140C) and perhaps too much was added.
posted by mary8nne at 7:49 AM on July 9, 2012

Maybe the rosemary, but I have never had a problem with it. Usually I place it on top of the lamb and then removed when making the sauce (ok for some leaves to crumble in), but in some recipes it is fine for the rosemary to be in the liquid, (also removed in end). I think that the combination of wine and lots of lemon slow cooked, particularly zest may be the problem. And if you have not removed all the pith that is a problem, as pith is pure bitter.

Also, could it be a reactive pan that you cooked in? Was the rosemary taste super strong, if it was use less rosemary next time.
posted by snaparapans at 7:55 AM on July 9, 2012

I've never had a problem with rosemary, even in dishes where I put a lot in. Also, the garlic went in raw so I doubt that the garlic burned enough to be bitter. I firmly believe it was the whole lemon slices.
posted by Foam Pants at 9:15 AM on July 9, 2012

I find that slicing the meat and putting the garlic in, in whole cloves, really stops that whole scorched garlic bitterness. Not only that but the cloves get all mushy and pasty and divine, and can be spread on bread beautifully.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:32 AM on July 9, 2012

Put a little of the rosemary and half the pepper in at the beginning of the cooking. Put more of both in about 2/3 of the way through the cooking and that is also when you add the garlic and the lemon zest. Five minutes before the cooking is done throw in a tiny bit more rosemary, a little bit of garlic and some more lemon zest. In my view you are cooking some of the spices too long, and this layering technique - from Paul Prudhomme - should change things for the better.

If your lemon zest has too much pith (white component) in it that will result in bitter flavors too.
posted by jet_silver at 10:40 AM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Are you using the whole rosemary branch, or just the leaves? The stem will impart a much stronger woodsy/bitter flavor, though even just the leaves can be overpowering (I usually find that too much of the leaves gives the finished dish a more "soapy" flavor).
posted by Caviar at 10:52 AM on July 9, 2012

Pepper can also get bitter if cooked too long.
posted by windykites at 11:33 PM on July 9, 2012

I use whole lemon slices with fish, because it cooks in only a few minutes. I wouldn't use whole lemon slices for long-cooking applications; I would add just the juice and the zest toward the end of the cooking time, so that they brighten things up. You could add the rosemary at the same time.
posted by palliser at 7:49 AM on July 10, 2012

« Older Eating healthily on holiday   |   Will I get stuck in Tokyo? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.