Thursday, February 03, 2011

Gremolata and Blood Oranges

My mind usually turns to baking and making sweets. Guess it's both because I have a sweet tooth and because I'm endlessly fascinated with the process of baking...turning butter and sugar and flour and more into delicious treats.

But sometimes I get a notion of something I'd like to cook that isn't sweet. That happened the other day as I was driving home from work. I'd recently read a recipe that used gremolata as a finisher to the dish and I thought that it would be interesting to take the chicken thighs that I knew were in the fridge at home and cook them in the manner of osso bucco, but with red wine instead of white, and then finish them off when I served them with a nice sprinkle of gremolata.

O.K. first off, gremolata is a combination of minced parsley (I use Italian parsley for the good strong flavor of it) and minced fresh garlic and freshly grated lemon zest. When combined the flavor is zesty and refreshing and a nice counterpoint to a slow cooked entree which usually has mellow flavors. This whole post is dedicated to Natasha because she has been waiting patiently for the recipes.

Now that I'd daydreamed an entree, I turned to what should go with it. A roasted beet salad on field greens with some small chunks of a good blue cheese seemed like it would go well with the chicken dish. Here is a dish of roasted, peeled beets and some blood orange halves.

A citrus dressing would be seasonal and add some fruitiness, too. Around here it's the season for both blood oranges and Meyer lemons so I picked up some of each at the farm stand I pass on my way home. The next day I bought the organic beets and the blue cheese, plus some tricolor potato gnocchi that looked good. Everything else was already in the fridge or pantry. I started the chicken about 1 pm and once it was simmering I joined Sweetie down the hill where he was putting new boards on the farmhouse deck. By the time we had all the boards attached...and I did learn how to use the impact driver by the time I'd done all the fasteners in the middle of the deck!...the chicken was done and the beets I'd roasted earlier were cool enough to peel.

Blood orange juice is a lovely light fuchsia color so the dressing is pink even without any beet juices.

Both the chicken recipe and the vinaigrette recipe are ones where I've pulled bits and pieces from a number of recipes I found online. The vinaigrette in particular was a work in progress as I made it...less olive oil than I had originally planned, blood orange zest added...something none of the recipes I looked at had included which is odd when you consider how much flavor the zest has...less honey, too.

That evening we truly had a feast. The chicken was so tender it fell off the bone. The sauce created by the wine, chicken, herbs, and vegetables was great over the gnocchi, and the gremolata did the job of brightening up the dish. The salad was an excellent combination of flavors. I later wished that I'd added some toasted nuts...maybe hazelnuts or walnuts...but there was none left once we enjoyed it.

I cut the beets in wedges and marinated them for about 15 minutes in the blood orange dressing but if you are short of time you could slice them quickly and pour a little of the vinaigrette over them after you lay them over the dressed greens.

Slow-cooked Chicken Thighs with Gremolata

4 chicken thighs...I used bone-in thighs but boneless work well, too.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1/3 cup chopped carrots
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons dried rosemary or 1 stalk fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or 3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 can diced tomatoes in juice
about 1 cup red wine
salt and pepper


1 clove garlic, finely chopped,
Zest of one lemon (I used a regular lemon, not a Meyer lemon)
1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
Mix the three ingredients together until well combined.

Rinse and dry the chicken thighs. Heat a skillet or Dutch oven over high heat and add the olive oil. Brown the chicken thighs, turning once after about 5 minutes. Once browned remove to a plate and set aside.

If you have used chicken with skin you may have to pour off some of the fat from the pan. 1-2 tablespoons is all that is needed to sauté the vegetables.

Sauté the onions, celery and carrots for about 5 minutes, until onions are translucent. Spread the vegetables out on the bottom of the pan. Top with the browned chicken thighs.

Add the herbs to the pan, putting some on top of each piece of chicken. Pour the tomatoes and juice over everything in the pan. Add the red wine until the thighs are at least 2/3 covered. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cover the pan, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Chicken will be very tender.

Serve over gnocchi, rice, noodles or mashed potatoes, spooning some of the juices over. Sprinkle the chicken pieces with Gremolata and serve hot.

For the Roasted Beet Salad with Blue Cheese and Blood Orange Vinaigrette I tossed field greens with some of the blood orange vinaigrette, put them on a salad plate, topped with the marinated roasted beets, sprinkled on about 1 teaspoon of crumbled blue cheese and served the salads. Toasted nuts would make a nice addition.

Roasted Beets

4-5 small to medium beets, well scrubbed to remove dirt

Cut the root end off the beets and the leaves if your beets come that way. No need to peel the beets now. Lay the beets on a sheet of aluminum foil. Bring two sided together and fold over a couple of times to seal. Bring the ends up and over the packet. Roast in a preheated 400 degree oven for about 1/2 hour, or until beets are tender when pierced with a sharp knife tip.

Let the beets cool. Slip the peels off and cut into wedges or slices. Any leftovers should be kept refrigerated.

Blood Orange Vinaigrette

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (I used raspberry infused)
1/3 cup blood orange juice
zest from 1 blood orange
1/2 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon Dijon style mustard
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon finely chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Put all ingredients into a jar with a screw top lid, put the top on tightly and shake until ingredients are fully mixed and mixture thickens slightly. Taste and adjust salt and pepper as needed. Serve at once. Can be stored in the refrigerator for a week.


  1. Looks really yummy!! I learnt something knew too... Gremolata :)

  2. Anonymous1:35 AM

    Mmmmm! That looks delicious!! I think I could substitute red grapefruit for the blood orange. I am always in awe of your creativity in the kitchen.

    Thank you for the dedication. The post was well worth the wait! And it really wasn't a long wait, I was just excited about it. =)

    love and hugs,

  3. Ooh, that salad looks awesome! Thanks for the Gremolata recipe!

  4. That all sounds fabulous! (Very happy to have learned about Gremolata) And I'm so envious of your blood oranges that actually look like blood oranges.

    Man oh man. I want this for dinner tonight. And for dessert, I want to have seconds of dinner. (I love dinner for dessert.)