Thursday, July 5, 2012

Chicken Marbella

Sticky-sweet with a savory, garlicky tang. You'll lick the plate!

First, a diversion. I lived in Saugatuck, Michigan for 13 years where I operated my art studio, Thirteen Hawks. It was also home to Julie Russo of The Silver Palate Cookbook nomenclature. She and her business partner, Sheila Lukins, ran  "The Silver Palate" a sophisticated yet hands-on gourmet shop in NY before an acrimonious split. 

Lukins died of brain cancer in 2009, the year I left Michigan. Russo recently retired and sold her beloved posh bed and breakfast, Wickwood Inn, on Lake Michigan.

Anyway, Chicken Marbella, of Spanish/Moorish origin, was one of their signature dishes and, some would argue, most popular recipes from their cookbook. And I do mean "signature." I read so many rave reviews I thought I'd give it a try. I already love my simple Chicken Provencal which I often make. This seemed in the same vein, although I had my doubts about the combinations, but pairing unusual flavors is the cookbook's theme and fame. I'm not a huge fan of green olives; I would have preferred Kalamata. But the dish needed some color and green it was.

Next time I may experiment a little. I could certainly see (maybe) adding dried apple. And people often sub the prunes with dried apricots (I did but didn't care for it). A splash of Cognac would be interesting. Regardless, the dish really is worth the raves. It's a great play on tastes between the sweet and the savory. The prunes bake sweet and plump having absorbed the complex tastes of the marinade. I served mine with mashed potatoes to make use of the incredible and delectable sauce.

Just be sure to use large, meaty thighs, skin-on, bone-in. Split Cornish Hens would be nice, too, and great for a Christmas meal. The original recipe can easily be found on the Internet (it makes a lot!). Here, mine is halved.

Alas, not even the humble chicken thigh is inexpensive as I update this in 2022. Nor olives (good ones, anyway). Worthy of guests, this is one recipe you need under your belt and culinary repertoire, especially to which to introduce your family.

  • 4 meaty chicken thighs, skin-on, bone-in, extra fat removed
  • 1/4 - 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 - 1/3 cup sherry vinegar
  • 1 cup dried, whole prunes
  • 1/2 cup Spanish olives or mixed olives
  • 1/2 cup capers, drained (I usually use less, maybe half ... you do you)
  • 2 -3 bay leaves, fresh if possible
  • 1-2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 4 large garlic cloves, pressed or finely minced plus two extra for baking
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
Mix the olive oil, vinegar, prunes, olives, capers, bay leaves, oregano and garlic in a large bowl or large Ziploc bag. I recommend the plastic bag. Add chicken pieces. Marinate overnight.

When ready to prepare, add 1 -2 more cloves in excess of the four cloves used in marinade. Make sure garlic is minced/pressed.  I also added some fresh oregano. Arrange chicken on a heat-proof dish. I used a 10 x 10 shallow pan which worked great. Add all the marinade ingredients, except for the bay leaves. Sprinkle each chicken thigh with some of the brown sugar. Carefully drizzle the wine around the pan.

Bake at 350 degrees F for about 40-50 minutes, basting several times with the juices during the baking process. (I raised the heat a bit the last ten minutes to get a nice caramelized crust on the chicken.). Remove from oven and allow to rest 15 minutes. 

Silver Palate? Hmmm ... I'd say GOLDEN!