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Retro Recipe: Rosy Chicken

July 12, 2011

- Merrill

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When summer rolls around, I usually want to drink nothing but rosé. But it wasn't until recently that I thought of using it for cooking. One evening, I found myself tinkering -- once again -- with a recipe by Jamie Oliver for Tender and Crisp Chicken Legs with Sweet Tomatoes, in which he has you slow-roast chicken legs with whole, unpeeled garlic cloves, fresh basil, cherry tomatoes and chopped fresh chili. As I'd found the initial results lacking in the sauce department, the last couple of times I'd added a splash of white wine to the bottom of the pan, with happy results.

But this time I was looking to really shake things up. I wanted to cook the chicken faster and get a nice flavorful sauce going for the rice I planned to serve with it. So I browned the chicken legs in a pan to give them a crisp skin, then added crushed garlic, a large juicy tomato all chopped up, red chili flakes instead of fresh chili, and thyme instead of basil. When I peeked into the fridge for an open bottle of white wine, however, there was none to be found. What I did see was a half-full bottle of rosé that I'd opened the night before. A bit skeptical but also slightly exhilarated at the thought that I might discover something new and wonderful, I added a generous slosh of rosé to the pan and smacked on the lid.

When the chicken had bubbled away for about 40 minutes, I was left with what was easily the silkiest and most complex wine sauce I had ever created at home. The garlic and tomatoes had virtually melted into the wine, the thyme adding a gentle fragrance and the chili flakes a pleasing warmth. And my sauce was pink! Granted, most of the color likely came from the tomatoes, but the rosé lent a lovely, fruity depth of flavor that I have never tasted in a sauce made with white wine. Even though I had made enough chicken for four, two of us couldn't resist demolishing every last drop of the sauce, leaving the remaining two chicken legs pathetic and naked. Needless to say this recipe, which my mother christened "Rosy Chicken," has earned a permanent place in my repertoire.

Since my first successful attempt at cooking with rosé, I've seen penne with a rosé basil sauce on the menu at the Peacock Café in Washington, D.C., discovered a passage in a New York Times Magazine piece I've always loved in which Jean Halberstam retools Mario Batali's Sicilian Lifeguard Stew by adding rosé, and stumbled across a recipe for pears poached in rosé on Epicurious. So, it turns out my lightbulb moment wasn't exactly groundbreaking. I can live with that -- as long there's some rosé in the fridge.

Rosy Chicken by merrill

Serves 4

  • 4 whole chicken legs, about 2 pounds total
  • salt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2/3 cup dry rosé
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes
  • freshly ground black pepper
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I'm a native New Yorker, Le Cordon Bleu graduate, former food writer/editor turned entrepreneur, mother of two, and unapologetic lover of cheese.


jessicaferri July 20, 2011
Merill, this recipe was absolutely fantastic. Thank you so much! - Jessica
Merrill S. July 20, 2011
Glad you liked it!
ibbeachnana July 13, 2011
The sauce and flavor was wonderful, the skin was not crisp but rather soggy and yes, I did follow the recipe.
Merrill S. July 18, 2011
Sorry about the soggy skin! Next time, maybe try popping the chicken into the oven (uncovered) for the last 10 minutes or so of cooking.
Sagegreen July 13, 2011
This is such a great recipe. I love your use of chicken legs, which have more "red" meat than breast, with rosé.
Merrill S. July 18, 2011
I adore chicken legs.
TXExpatInBKK July 13, 2011
This is gorgeous. Sometimes, no matter how tasty the recipes on this site look, I just can't find all the ingredients in this neck of the woods. But THIS I can do! Can't wait, thanks again.
Merrill S. July 18, 2011
You're welcome!
fiveandspice July 12, 2011
Merril, this looks absolutely wonderful! Love the method for keeping the chicken skin crispy, and I of course love the use of rose. I just had a rose last night, and although I was quite happy with drinking it rather than putting it in my food this go around, next time, I'll definitely try throwing it into the sauce!
Merrill S. July 12, 2011
Thank you so much!
aargersi July 12, 2011
I have become something of a rose addict this summer! Love this ... must try soon
Merrill S. July 12, 2011
Looking forward to your feedback!
EmilyC July 12, 2011
Love everything about this dish...such a simple yet innovative twist. Ideas like this are why I love Food52 so much.
Merrill S. July 12, 2011
What a lovely comment. Thank you!
drbabs July 12, 2011
Thanks for sharing this again... I love rose.
Merrill S. July 12, 2011
Me too!
Lizthechef July 12, 2011
Just when we were getting a little tired of chicken at our house, you have saved the day...
Merrill S. July 12, 2011
Thanks! (I'm actually making this myself on Friday for some guests, now that tomatoes are back in season!)
Maryanne H. September 21, 2009
I would love to be able to save this recipe on your website. Can you add this function to this area of the website please?
Merrill S. September 30, 2009
We've just added this to the recipes, so now you can! Sorry for the delay!
StephanieBezner September 11, 2009
Merrill, I made this for dinner last night to celebrate my parents' wedding anniversary. Everyone thought it was divine. I was a little concerned with the simmering on the stove (I have 5 whole chicken legs in a 5 quart casserole), so after it simmered on the stove for 10 minutes, I put it in a 375 oven for the last 25 minutes. It came out perfectly, and the sauce quickly reduced on the stove after the chicken was plated. So sad that it was the last bottle of rose from my June case order for summer!
MrsWheelbarrow September 2, 2009
Merrill, it's delicious. I loved this recipe almost as much for how it made the house smell as the way it tasted. I will admit to adding 2 Tbsp cream to the sauce at the very end. Thank you!
Chef G. September 2, 2009
As a rose' crusader, I am now smitten with your chicken legs. Must give it a try.
lastnightsdinner August 27, 2009
This sounds lovely - I don't know why it never occurred to me to cook with rosé, but now I'm inspired!
Giulia M. August 27, 2009
I'm with you, Merrill--in summer I love rosé.. I will definitely try this.
Merrill S. August 27, 2009
I hope you won't be disappointed! I make it pretty much once a week these days.
lastnightsdinner August 30, 2009
I made this tonight with a cut up whole chicken (our farmers' market only has whole birds), and it was fabulous. We had a guest for dinner and she and my husband were both raving about the sauce. Thank you!