Summer is officially rosé season, and while it’s fully expected that you will be pouring your favorite pink into a glass, you should also consider adding it to your food.
Wine is a handy ingredient in cooking – and not just for fortifying sips while whipping up a dinner. A generous glug of vino poured into a simmering pot or a sizzling skillet enhances the flavor of whatever is on the menu. From soups to stews, sauces to reductions, even marinades and brines, wine adds complexity and acidity to the mix. It’s also a flavor enhancer. When wine is cooked, the alcohol evaporates, leaving a concentrated essence of flavor and aroma in a dish. Wine (and spirits) are often used to deglaze a pan, since the alcohol will help to dissolve fats, which in turn allows the flavors of the ingredients to shine through. A guiding cooking principle, therefore, is to cook with a wine you would like to drink, since the characteristics and flavor of your sip-worthy wine will be amplified and lend similar accents to your dish. Most likely, you’ve applied white and red wines to this principle, but don’t overlook rosé.
Rosé wines range from light, dry Provençal-style to fruity, bright Pinot Noir to deeper garnet-hued wines, such as Syrah and Cabernet. Generally speaking, when cooking a savory dish, do not use a wine that will overpower with sweetness, fruit, and oak. Rather, opt for dry, acidic, un-oaked wines as the best all-around choice. Rosé wines gladly adhere to this principle, especially when it comes to light Provençal varietals or crisp California Pinot Noirs. And, in the case of a sweet compote or dessert recipe, where the fruit and depth of the wine should be bolder and more prominent, a fuller-bodied rosé, such as Rosado, Syrah or Cabernet, will complement and accentuate the sweetness of the dish.
Here are some tips for cooking with rosé like a pro:
Price Point: Choose a wine that you like to drink, but there’s no need to open up a pricey bottle – save that for pouring. A quaffable table wine will do the trick.
Think Pink: Embrace the hue, acidity, and zip of rosé and add it to dishes that reflect its color and are nicely balanced by rosé’s bright acidity. Accentuate color and flavor with light, sweet, contrasting spring and summer ingredients, such as citrus, peas, baby greens, sweet beets, summer berries, stone fruit, and pink peppercorns.
Shellfish: The natural brininess and sweetness of shellfish pairs well with crisp rosés with a hint of fruit. A sparkling brut rosé will add a seductive pink effervescence to a mignonette served with oysters on the half shell. Steam sweet mussels in a crisp, fruity rosé wine to amplify the sweet mussel meat and infuse the broth; or sauté plump shrimp or scallops in a simple rosé wine reduction with a little garlic and a pinch of red chili flakes or pink peppercorns.
Risotto: Substitute a dry Pinot Noir rosé for white wine as the aromatic reduction in risotto before adding the rice. The light fruit in the wine will complement sweet vegetables and rich cheese added to the risotto, such as peas, beets, or sweet gorgonzola.
Sauces: A crisp, dry rosé adds subtle fruit and bright acidity to traditional white wine-cream sauces while balancing their richness. Toss the sauce with pasta or serve with light meats such as chicken or veal, or fish and seafood.
Syrups, Marinades, and Brines: Poach fruit, such as stone fruit, pears, and grapes, in a rosé syrup. Add a glug to compotes, chutneys, relishes, and brines for flavor and acidity; or spike watermelon balls with rosé, let them marinate, and serve with toothpicks for a fun summer party dessert.
Ice It: Frosé anyone? Make a simple palate-cleansing granita or a red fruit sorbet with a blend of rosé and summer berries, such as strawberries and raspberries.
Raw Oysters with Brut Rosé Mignonette
3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
Pinch each of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons brut rosé
12 oysters, shucked, on the half shell
Whisk the vinegar, shallot, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Let stand for 20 minutes. Just before serving, add the rosé. Serve with the oysters.
Peach Bruschetta with Rosé and Thyme
1/3 cup crisp, fruity rosé, such as California pinot noir
1/3 cup white balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
4 slices country-style bread, cut 1/4 inch thick
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium ripe, but firm, yellow peaches, halved and pitted
1/4 cup crumbled feta or goat cheese
Combine the rosé, vinegar, and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer until reduced by about half, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.
Preheat the oven broiler. Arrange the bread slices on a baking pan with a rack. Lightly brush both sides with olive oil and sprinkle with a little sea salt. Broil, turning once, until golden brown on both sides. Remove and transfer to a plate or platter.
Thinly slice the peach halves. Arrange on the bread, overlapping slightly, and brush with the rosévinaigrette. Sprinkle the cheese over the peaches and garnish with thyme sprigs. Drizzle with a little more vinaigrette and serve.
Makes 2 pounds
2 pounds assorted veggies, such as cauliflower, carrots, fennel, green beans, peppers
2 cups water
1 cup dry fruity rosé, such California Pinot Noir
1 cup white wine vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup kosher salt
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon white peppercorns
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
Wash and trim the vegetables as needed. Tightly pack into clear heatproof jars.
Combine the brine ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar and salt dissolve. Pour the brine over the vegetables. Cover and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours and up to 1 week. The flavors will develop with time.
Orecchiette, Peas, and Pancetta with Rosé Cream Sauce
1 pound orecchiette
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
4 ounces pancetta, finely diced
2 cups fresh peas
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1/2 cup Provençal rosé
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups pea shoots, loosely packed
1/3 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus extra for garnish
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente according to package instructions. Drain.
While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the pancetta and sauté until light golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel. Drain all but 1 tablespoon fat from the skillet. Add the fresh peas, garlic, and red chili flakes and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the rosé and reduce by half, 3 to 4 minutes. Return the pancetta to the pan and add the cream, salt, and pepper. Simmer until the cream is slightly thickened and the peas are tender, about 6 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the pasta, pea shoots, cheese, and mint. Serve immediately with additional cheese for garnish.
Domaine Nicolas Croze Cotes du Rhone Rosé – With a balanced richness, this rosé can stand up to grilled lamb or a summertime cheese plate.
Castello di Meleto Borgaio Rosé – This Tuscan bottle is crisp yet full of depth, great on its own or with a picnic in the park.
Castello delle Regine Rosé delle Regine – This pink sparkling wine has fresh, berry notes and is a wonderful way to kick off an evening.
Domaine de Belambree Rosé – A classic Provence rosé with floral notes and a wonderful minerality.
Lynda Balslev is an award winning writer, recipe developer, and cookbook author currently based in the San Francisco Bay area. She studied cooking in Paris and remained in Europe for 16 years, while living in Switzerland, England, and Denmark, where she learned that the best way to immerse oneself in a new culture was at the kitchen table. When she is not writing about food and wine through the lens of the travel, she writes about travel and culture through the lens of food and wine. Either way, it’s a win-win, and she looks forward to her next trip.