hermoula, a mixture of herbs such as parsley and cilantro,
Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria, chermoula may also include onion,
fresh coriander, ground chili peppers, black pepper or saffron.
Anthony Reyes, chef de cuisine at Fig & Olive, Chicago, likes
its versatility. “It can be used on steak, chicken, fish or vegetables,
and it is traditionally used in the coastal Mediterranean cuisine
we showcase at Fig & Olive,” he says. “We don’t use butter or
heavy cream in our dishes, so we are always looking for ways to
add flavor. Chermoula packs a big punch.”
Ari Weiswasser, chef/owner of Glen Ellen Star, Glen Ellen,
California, first heard about chermoula when he worked at a
Lebanese restaurant in New York. He started playing with different
preparations and variations. “The strong chermoula flavors hold
up well with our food, which is cooked in a wood oven,” he says.
“The wines we serve have a lot of smoke, as does the food. We
serve intense flavors, and look for sauces, marinades and profiles
that stand out.
“Chermoula is tried and true, much like American barbecue
with its deeply rooted pride. This blend was made for a reason,
and has been around for a long time.”
Michael Kornick, chef/owner of mk The Restaurant, Chicago,
uses chermoula to heighten a rich fatty protein and fatty grits with
something acidic. “You can make it as spicy as you want, but it
should really be herbaceous and acidic,” he says. “It’s similar to
a gremolata in Italy or sofrito in Puerto Rico. You are taking an
intense relish and putting it on something fatty and delicious.”
Kornick has used chermoula as a component in a braised duck
dish. He braised duck legs in a stock with cumin, cilantro, garlic
and bay leaves. Then, he crisped lardons and folded the rendered
pork fat into Anson Mills grits. The duck was presented on a bed
of grits with chermoula and sauteed plantains, and garnished with
fried parsley and celery leaves to accent the chermoula.
“The first time I had chermoula was in 1983, when I was
trying couscous in a Moroccan restaurant in France,” says Kornick.
“I started using it on menus shortly after that. Chermoula is not a
major element in terms of how much there is on the dish, but it’s a
major element in terms of flavor.”
Weiswasser also uses chermoula in a braised dish at Glenn
Ellen Star—housemade lamb meatballs with pine nuts, currants,
Moroccan-style red chermoula, blood orange oil and fried grape
leaves. He roasts lamb meatballs that contain a little pork in a
wood-burning oven, and then braises them in a red chermoula
sauce made with a spice blend and crushed tomatoes.
oPPosi Te: lamb meatballs with pine nuts, currants, Moroccan-style red chermoula,
blood orange oil and fried grape leaves at glen ellen star.
This sauce with North African roots is making a statement on menus.
By Kathryn Kjarsgaard