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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Chicken Marbella

My friend Nancy is the original Wonder Woman. After getting in at 1 a.m. from a weekend getaway, she snatched a few hours’ sleep, put in a full day at the office, and still gave a dinner party Monday evening! My friend Nancy is also smart. With a great main course, she served a purchased appetizer, heat-and-thaw mashed potatoes from her freezer, a salad mix with a simple balsamic dressing, and a purchased dessert. Rarely, have I been to a better dinner party, and rarely - given her hectic schedule - have I seen a more relaxed host. What was that great main course, I asked?
“You know - it’s that old Chicken Marbella recipe from The Silver Palate Cookbook,” Nancy said. Indeed, the 30-year-old book is justifiably famous (you can still find used copies in online bookstores, Dollinks), but I wasn’t familiar with the recipe. All I can say is that I’ve missed 30 years of marvelous cooking, because this was one of the finest chicken recipes I’ve ever tasted. 
Eating it immediately transported me to the south of Spain, where I slowly enjoyed every morsel of this delectable dish as I watched the Mediterranean, winking in the sun.
Reality check: I’ve never been to Spain! I’ve never seen the Mediterranean! But that was the feeling I took from this outstanding dish that is marinated in oil, vinegar, capers, olives, prunes, and herbs, and baked with brown sugar and white wine. Here’s the recipe Nancy used, with a photo I borrowed from a California food blog: http://simplyrecipes.com

That blog, Simply Recipes, is one of the best family blogs on the Internet. Please check it out! Nancy marinated the chicken pieces all day. The site reports that marinating the ingredients for 2-to-3 hours also works well. I have slightly modified Simply Recipes recipe. Simply Recipes, in turn, reports that its staff modified the recipe in The Silver Palate Cookbook. But that’s what cooking is all about - creativity!
Chicken Marbella:
½ head of garlic, peeled and finely puréed
2 tbsp. dried oregano
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
¼ c. red wine vinegar
¼ c. olive oil
½ c. pitted prunes (Nancy substituted dried apricots)
8 large pitted Spanish green olives, cut in half (Nancy used black olives, as well)
¼ c. capers with a bit of juice
3 bay leaves
5 lb. chicken thighs and breasts, bone in, skin on (the original recipe calls for 2 quartered chickens, 2-½ lb. each, bone-in, skin-on)
¼ c. brown sugar
½ c.white wine
2 tbsp. fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped (see Note)
In a large bowl, combine garlic, oregano, salt and pepper to taste, vinegar, olive oil, prunes, olives, capers with caper juice, and bay leaves. Add the chicken pieces and coat completely with the marinade. Cover and let marinate, refrigerated, several hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. Arrange chicken in a single layer in one or two large, shallow baking pans. Spoon marinade evenly over chicken. Sprinkle chicken parts with brown sugar and pour white wine around them.
Bake 50-to-60 min., basting frequently with pan juices. Chicken is done when thighs, pricked with a fork at their thickest point, lose their pinkness and juices run clear. With a slotted spoon, transfer chicken, prunes, olives, and capers to a serving platter (Nancy used a large, deep casserole and left the pan juices - later spooned over mashed potatoes - in the dish). Serves 5-to-8.
Note: Use parsley sparingly, so the elements of this dish can take center stage.
- With thanks to The Silver Palate Cookbook and http://simplyrecipes.com/

Chicken Marbella
- Photo with thanks to http://simplyrecipes.com/

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