Rosemary is one of those herbs that can improve a dish when you use it in moderation but may ruin it if you use too much. Overuse of rosemary results in a bitter flavor and a perfumy aroma that may remind you of cleaning products. As with most other culinary excesses, there are several ways to fix too much rosemary in a dish.
The first step to solving the problem is to remove the rosemary leaves or sprigs. Removal may not be an option if you used chopped or powdered rosemary in the dish but you get it out if you used sprigs or whole leaves. In dishes where you have used loose rosemary leaves, you can try skimming them off the surface of a liquid with a strainer. On a roast or similar dish, you can rinse the leaves off the surface.
If you use whole sprigs of rosemary, it will be easy to pull the whole thing out to keep it from releasing any more flavor. In all cases, removal works best if you catch it early but is still important even if you don’t. Rosemary is one of those herbs that will continue to release flavor even over the course of a long cooking time.
You should be able to rescue a dish from concentrated rosemary flavor by diluting that flavor. Do this by adding more of the dish’s ingredients except for rosemary. The result is that you water down the rosemary content and bring it back into balance with the other parts of the flavor profile.
If you want to avoid the problem of making too much food, remove half the dish and freeze it for future use (you can dilute when you use it) then add more ingredients to the rest to balance the flavors.
The addition of dairy may make it easier to dilute a stew or other dish without making it thin and soupy. Dairy will not work with all dishes that include rosemary but it will work with some of them and can help to make the strong sweetness of rosemary more intense.
Make it more savory
You can counteract the sweetness of rosemary by upping the umami in your dish. There are several options for making your dish more savory. Savory flavors will help to distract from and mask the intensity of rosemary. One way is simply to add a little monosodium glutamate (MSG). You can add the MSG directly or in a stock or bouillon cube. Other options include adding soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce or even seaweed depending on the dish.
Make it more acidic
You can distract from or mask the rosemary by increasing the tartness of your dish. The tartness can come from something like tomatoes, citrus, or vinegar. Sometimes, you may be able to get the acidity from a dairy product like yogurt or sour cream. The right dairy product gives you two options for defeating excessive rosemary since you get both the creaminess and the tartness.
Make it sweeter
As with many herbs, too much rosemary can make your food bitter. The easiest way to neutralize the bitterness is to make the dish sweeter. Depending on the dish, sweeteners like honey or fruit may work.