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.
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