Weekly menus can become repetitive, a routine of pizza on Friday, roast chicken on Sunday, grilled steak and fish... well, you get the point. I do experiment with a lot of new recipes, but all too often I shop for and cook the familiar. Chicken Marbella had been ignored for many months while we ate other chicken dishes - roast chicken, coq au vin, arroz con pollo, cacciatore, curry, piccata, marsala, chorizo and white bean chili, stroganoff, enchiladas, gumbo, paella, Greek feta baked, yogurt-marinated and more. But just before my knee surgery, when it came time to cook ahead and freeze some entrees, Chicken Marbella headed the list of must-cook dishes. It ranks high on my list of cold-weather comfort foods, is easy to prepare and a snap to reheat. RL appreciated the easy reheat feature during his weeks as The Butler.
The recipe comes from my 1982 well-used paperback copy of The Silver Palate Cookbook: delicious recipes, menus, tips, lore from Manhattan's celebrated gourmet food shop. The text notes this was the shop's first main-dish offering and remained a favorite for years - hey, we still love it 28 years later. It gets my vote as a winning entree, a reliable buffet item served hot or at room temperature, tasty picnic fare and a delicious hors d'oeuvre presentation for wings and small drumsticks. How is that for versatile?
What it's not is a spur-of-the-moment dish, since an overnight marination is essential to keep the finished dish moist and tasty. It's also improved by cooking and then holding it in the refrigerator for a day or two to temper and improve the flavor. It freezes well, a handy feature if you make the full recipe which serves 10 to 12. I tend to divide the recipe and cook a 1/2 or even 1/3 recipe, especially if I'm not planning to to freeze any.
Photo: recipe using prunes, waiting for the white wine
Photo: recipe using raisins, after the white wine pour
Photo: cooked and ready to leave the oven
recipe originally from The Silver Palate Cookbook
16 pieces, yields 10+ servings
4 chickens, 2-3 lb each, quartered (or use packages of pieces, thighs, drumsticks, breasts cut in half or even thirds)
1 head of garlic, peeled and finely pureed or minced
¼ cup dried oregano
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
½ cup red wine vinegar
½ cup olive oil
1 cup pitted prunes (raisins work equally well)
½ cup pitted Spanish green olives (I use the stuffed ones)
½ cup capers with a splash of juice
6 bay leaves
1-cup brown sugar (I have a heavy hand with the sugar and use more)
1 cup white wine (or lemon juice)
¼ cup Italian parsley or cilantro, finely chopped
2. Preheat oven to 350F.
3. Arrange chicken in a single layer in one or two large, shallow non-reactive baking pans (Pyrex for example) and spoon marinade over it evenly. Sprinkle chicken pieces (generously) with brown sugar and pour white wine around them.
4. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, basting frequently with pan juices. Chicken is done when thigh pieces, pricked with a fork at their thickest, produce clear yellow (not pink) juice. (or check the center of the larger pieces, near the bone.)
5. Use a slotted spoon to transfer chicken and marinade solids (prunes, olives and capers) to a serving platter. Moisten with a few spoonfuls of pan juices and sprinkle generously with parsley or cilantro. Pass remaining pan juices in a sauceboat. (If the juices look too thin, reduce them a bit on stovetop. This can happen if the chicken is water-injected.)
6. To serve Chicken Marbella cold, cool to room temp in cooking juices before transferring to a serving platter. If chicken has been covered and refrigerated, skim off any congealed fat and allow it to return to room temperature before serving. Spoon some of the reserved juice over the chicken and garnish with the parsley.