For some, the holidays are the most wonderful time of year. For others, it’s rosé season. It’s not just that we’re obsessed with the pink wine itself: It’s the warm weather that the cold rosé cools us down from. It’s gathering with friends. Whether it’s at a picnic, on someone’s roof, or inside after a refreshing swim, rosé represents summer’s bounty of friends, food, and sunshine. Rosé is the official sponsor of summer living.
So, in the spirit of rosé and low-lift summertime cooking, we have a suggestion: Save some of your rosé and use it to steam clams or mussels.
“A lot of people think of clams or mussels marinières-style, with the white wine, butter, shallots, garlic, and parsley,” says Joshua Resnick, lead chef and operations manager at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City. “But really, they’re endlessly adaptable.”
Rosé in particular, Resnick says, has a leg up on your traditional white wine in this setting. This is thanks to the florality and bit of sweetness that you’ll find in the typical summer rosé that we like to sip, as the phrase goes, all day. “It helps balance the salinity of that fresh seafood,” he explains.
Any rosé will work, but Resnick says a fruity and easy-drinking rosé with a bit of sweetness is ideal here, especially if you’re using clams. Clams, he explains, tend to be a little saltier than mussels, so a fruitier rosé will help maintain balance. A bone-dry rosé could push the brininess of the clams into harsher territory. That said, because this dish is so flexible, it’s easy to lean into your favorite style of rosé. With a dry, herbaceous Provencal rosé, throw herbes de Provence — or simply a few springs of whatever fresh herbs you have around — into the rosé broth at the beginning of the cook. A Grenache rosé, with vibrant red fruit flavors, could be lovely with fresh tomatoes in the broth. If you’re on vacation and get to gather the clams yourself, using a local wine will help bring out the flavor of the local bivalves. “As they say, what grows together goes together,” Resnick says.
“Take a look in your fridge, see what you have. A little of this, a little of that, and you’re done. The most important thing is tasting your food.”
That also means you don’t need to go out on a special shopping trip for a zillion additional ingredients. Fresh clams or mussels release a savory broth after they’re cooked, and that plus whatever you’ve added to your broth usually equals flavor magic. “If you don’t finish a bottle of wine, you’re basically halfway to having all your ingredients for your dish,” Resnick says. Leftover sparkling rosé, too, is perfect here.
“Take a look in your fridge, see what you have. A little of this, a little of that, and you’re done,” Resnick says. “The most important thing is tasting your food.” You can always adjust the broth after the steaming process is finished: Add salt, if needed, or even a bit of sweetener if the broth leans extra briney. Herbs will help bring out the florality of the wine, and alliums will make the clams or mussels more savory. A few seasonal veggies will help add some depth. Resnick’s recipe, shared below, uses ginger to offset the salinity and bring out the fruitier notes in the wine. Ultimately, steamed clams is a quick yet elegant dish that is hard to mess up, he says. Add some crusty bread for dipping in the broth, and you’ve got yourself a lovely meal.
“Have fun, and don’t be scared to try something new,” Resnick adds. “Zhuzh it up how you want. Just enjoy summer — that’s what it’s for.”
Summer Clams With Rosé
Yield: 4 servings
2 pounds littlenecks clams
Extra virgin olive oil
2 shallots, sliced
4 scallions, sliced, whites and greens separated
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons minced ginger
1 Roma tomato, deseeded, diced
2 cups rosé wine
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, kept cold
Prepare the clams by scrubbing with a brush or hard sponge, then soak in water for 1 hour.
In a pot large enough to hold the ingredients, heat enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the
pot. Add in the shallots, scallion whites, garlic, ginger, and tomato. Add a dash of salt, stir,
and cook until the vegetables are softened but not caramelized.
Add the clams to the pot, followed by the wine. Raise the heat to high and cover. Steam until
the clams open. Turn off the heat.
Transfer the opened clams to serving bowls. Add the butter to the remaining liquid and
whisk to combine; do not allow the liquid to boil. Pour the liquid over the clams and garnish
with the sliced scallion greens. Serve with warm, toasted bread to sop up the liquid.