From the Recipe Vault: Revisiting my old friend, Chicken Marbella.
Does that holiday dinner party you’re planning have you stressed to the MAX? Chicken Marbella to the rescue–a QUICK and EASY retro recipe (yes, anything ’80s is now retro) to make your holiday a whole lot less stressful while impressing the heck out of your guests. I promise.
Back in the early 1980s, my Aunt Joan gave me the copy of The Silver Palate Cookbook. My copy is now stained and tattered, but it still holds a spot on my bookshelf. Aunt Joan definitely knew good recipes when she saw them. She was always sharing favorite recipes from the newspaper or magazine or from one of her cooking classes at Kitchen Glamor, her favorite cooking store. This book remains my favorite gift from her. (The stainless measuring spoons and cups from Canada are pretty special, too.)
A Favorite Place
I was reminded of this favorite dinner party recipe on a recent trip to the Champaign Public Library. While looking through the books at their used bookstore, I was so excited to see FOUR copies of 1982 edition of The Silver Palate Cookbook.
Sitting on their basement floor (and probably taking up the whole aisle, sorry), I began flipping through the pages. I revisited so many fun memories of using that cookbook–Friday night dinners at home with friends, the marathon games of girls vs guys Trivial Pursuit (girls RULE), and many glasses of cheap Chardonnay and/or beer (being that we were all too broke to afford anything else). Good times, good times!
All these memories after finding a used cookbook? Yes, because the book is THAT special, and Chicken Marbella is its shining star.
For those younger than a certain age, let me introduce you to Chicken Marbella.
It is quintessentially 1980s, along with big hair, shoulder pads, Glamour Shots, progressive dinners and Chardonnay. Some “retro” recipes can be forgotten as far as I’m concerned, like “before-my time” 1950s tomato aspic (Google it or just trust me and stay away).
But this recipe deserves the title of “CLASSIC.” It combines sweet, sour, briny and bold flavors with chicken to create a dish with an aroma, taste and presentation second to none no matter what era you’re from.
And it gets even better. The recipe is a cinch to prepare and easy to clean up, both things being pretty high on the list of “must haves” for every busy cook. It really doesn’t get any easier that this one.
From the The Silver Palate Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins. The original recipe makes a HUGE amount of food (using 10 pounds of chicken!), so I cut everything in half. If you’re feeding your entire neighborhood, just double everything. My version still serves plenty, 5-6 AT LEAST (leftovers are amazing). See my notes at the end for my other “adjustments” and buying info.
Did I mention that it’s a cinch to prepare? The night before you plan to serve this dish, combine the ingredients for the chicken “marinade” and add to the chicken. Mix to combine. Place the chicken in a 9 x 13 baking dish and pop it into the fridge for the evening. Right before baking, add the wine and sprinkling of brown sugar, and bake til done. Your house will smell AMAZING as it cooks, and your guests will be impressed. I promise.
Chicken Marbella Revisited
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup pitted prunes or up to 1 cup
- 1/4 cup Spanish green olives
- 1/4 cup capers with a bit of juice
- 3 bay leaves
- 1/2 head garlic peeled, finely minced (8 cloves, minced)
- 2 tablespoons dried oregano
- Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste (I use Kosher, about 3 teaspoons salt and 2 teaspoons pepper)
- 5 pounds of chicken pieces skin-on
- 1/4-1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 2 tablespoons freshly chopped Italian parsley or fresh cilantro chopped
- In a large bowl, COMBINE the olive oil, vinegar, prunes, olives, capers and a splash of the juice, the bay leaves, garlic, oregano and a hefty pinch each of salt and pepper.
- ADD the chicken and stir to coat. COVER the bowl and REFRIGERATE overnight.
- When ready to cook, PREHEAT the oven to 350 degrees.
- ARRANGE the chicken in a single layer in 1 or 2 large, shallow baking pans. SPOON the marinade evenly over the chicken. SPRINKLE the chicken pieces with the brown sugar. POUR the white wine around the pan.
- BAKE, basting frequently with the pan juices, until the thigh pieces reach 170 degrees and the breasts reach 160 degrees, 50 minutes to 1 hour.
- With a slotted spoon, TRANSFER the chicken, prunes, olives and capers to a serving platter. SPOON some of the pan juices over the chicken. SPRINKLE generously with the parsley or cilantro. SERVE the remaining pan juices on the side.
- To serve Chicken Marbella cold, cool to room temperature in the cooking juices before transferring the pieces to a serving platter. If the chicken has been covered and refrigerated, reheat it in the juices, then allow it to come to room temperature before serving. Spoon some of the reserved juices over the chicken. Serves 10.
- I go really easy on the brown sugar, using only ¼ cup. I usually use the adjust the amount of prunes to 1 cup (the amount from original recipe) no matter the amount of chicken as they taste so delicious.
- I serve it with some type of rice (your choice) because the juices are too good to waste.
- Boneless chicken thighs or breasts will work as a replacement for the larger chicken pieces. The presentation will not be as pretty but they are so much easier to for guests to eat. BUT remember to start checking for doneness after about 40 minutes and you will have to baste every 10-15 minutes with the pan juices so they don’t dry out.
- As for the olives, I use pimento stuffed as they're easier to find than plain pitted green olives.
- I find the little bottles of capers near the olives and jarred peppers at any large grocery store.
- I use an inexpensive white wine but still something that’s drinkable. I usually use a Chardonnay in the $5-6 dollar a bottle range.