I cook with wine a lot. And by that, I mean I cook dinner with a bottle open on the kitchen counter, sipping on a glass here and there, chatting with my husband as I chop, sift, and stir. Maybe I'll nibble on a chunk or two of cheese to tide me over until dinner is ready. Cooking that way—with wine, that is—is a pleasure. It's much more than the act of simply getting dinner on the table.
But I also cook with wine, dousing a joint of meat in a good white or marinating fruit in a syrupy red. It's a simple touch that brings flavor and life to the plainest of ingredients so that dinner feels like a feast. White wine, rosé, sweet liqueurs—they’re all good, but there's something about red wine I find particularly irresistible. It has to do with the dark, ruby hues. In the winter, I pour it into stews, pasta sauces, and over roasts—hearty dishes. But in the summer, I find a splash of red wine pairs beautifully with lighter fare like fruit and berries. Here are a few of my favorite recipes with red wine:
Crispy Roast Duck Legs with Red Wine Figs This is true comfort food. The duck legs are the best bit of the bird. They’re succulent and the skin (rubbed lightly with salt) goes wonderfully crisp when roasted. The legs let off a lot of fat as they cook slowly in the oven. I add a splash of red wine added to the juices, let the sauce caramelize, and soak it all up with crusty bread at dinner. Duck pairs nicely with cooked fruit—roast grapes or plums or pretty much whatever is in season. But come summer, these figs marinated in red wine for a day or two beforehand, are my favorite.
Red Wine Risotto This is essentially a plain risotto, but made with red wine instead of the usual white. It gives the rice a beautiful, deep, rich color, and subtle flavor. To make it, sauté an onion in olive oil and butter, then add the rice in with the onion, and pour in the wine to reduce. Add some stock and allow it to cook, stirring constantly. I like to top the risotto with copious amounts of Parmesan or shavings of a nice pecorino. Red wine and cheese is, after all, a match made in heaven.
Red Wine and Strawberry Jelly Jell-O—you know, the fluorescent, wobbly dessert you buy in packets—was such a treat for me as a child. I didn’t eat it often—it was the kind of thing reserved for birthday parties and very special occasions. This red wine jelly is a grown-up version of a childhood favorite. I make it with a good Italian red, a heap of strawberries and, more often than not, serve it with a dollop of rosemary whipped cream.
Red Wine, Cherry, and Mascarpone Tart One of my go-to desserts is a crostata with whipped mascarpone filling and chunks of gleaming fruit on top. Whatever's in season works well—whether that's plums, strawberries, or peaches. But these cherries, gently poached in a red wine syrup with just a hint of sugar, are particularly delightful. Of course, you needn’t make the tart—the cherries in all their juices are perfect. Try them drizzled over a scoop of vanilla ice cream or with some mascarpone.
Red Wine and Cardamom Poached Pears I very lightly adapted this recipe from Elizabeth David. I love its simplicity—just douse the pears in wine, add sugar (and a few whole spices if you like), and leave it all to simmer gently in the oven for 5 to 7 hours. The longer the fruit sits, the more tender and flavorful it becomes. But above all, I love how the whole house fills with the scent of wine. I usually serve the pears as a dessert, perhaps with a drizzle of double cream or a chunk of cheese. A good gorgonzola is particularly nice here. Leftovers are delicious served with pan fried pork chops.
6 pears 180 grams sugar 370 milliliters red wine 1 tablespoon crushed cloves 6 to 8 cardamom pods
What's your favorite recipe using red wine? Tell us in the comments below!
Photos by Skye McAlpine
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).