Here’s To a Little Retro Sophistication: Hail Chicken Marbella!

Way back when wild mushroom soup was exotic and no one had ever heard of pesto, Sheila Lukins and Julee Rosso opened a tiny food shop in New York aimed at the new generation of working women. The caterer and the advertising executive stocked their take-out store, The Silver Palate, with tarragon chicken salad, salmon mousse and ratatouille. New Yorkers loved the pair for feeding the city’s frazzled, overwhelmed masses.

The rest of the country came to share the love when the two co-authored “The Silver Palate Cookbook.” They introduced sophisticated cooking to the rest of us. (Apologies to Julia Child, who still reigns supreme if unattainable.)  Dishes that once seemed out of the home cook’s reach became as common place as, well, curried butternut squash soup.

The cookbook’s 25th year was marked by an anniversary re-issue. Today “The Silver Palate Cookbook” is heading toward its 35th anniversary as Mother’s Day approaches. It’s a safe bet that dogeared, stained copies are still handed out by Baby Boomers and their daughters to the next generation of cooks.

Briny-sweet Chicken Marbella still shines from the pages and stars at dinner parties when cooks want to impress. No longer counted among the riskiest of dishes, Chicken Marbella is a time-tested classic. And it is so, so easy, to make.

You can find the Chicken Marbella recipe on a myriad of websites: The Silver Palate, Epicurious, Simply Recipes, Food, Once Upon a Chef and The New York Times. NYT readers echo the current foodie love affair with boneless chicken thighs, and by golly, they’re right. Boneless thighs are much easier for guests at a dinner party to carve delicately. Other NYT contributors suggest combining apricots or dried cherries with the prunes. Many who comment on the Times version reflect today’s taste for using less sugar.

Freezing is a breeze; you may want to freeze the juices separately, reheat the liquid in a saucepan and slowly reheat the submerged chicken.

If you’ve somehow missed out on Boomer Cuisine, now’s a great time to throw a dinner party and go a little bit retro. Happy Birthday, Chicken Marbella!

Chicken Marbella

Ingredients

  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup pitted prunes
  • ½ cup pitted Spanish green olives
  • ½ cup capers, with a bit of juice
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 1 head of garlic, peeled and puréed
  • ½ cup fresh oregano, chopped, or 1/4 cup dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 chickens, 3 1/2 to 4 pounds each, quartered
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Preparation

  1. In a large bowl, combine the olive oil, vinegar, prunes, olives, capers and juice, bay leaves, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper. Add the chicken pieces and turn to coat. Refrigerate overnight.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Arrange the chicken in a single layer in a shallow roasting pan; spoon the marinade over it evenly. Pour in the wine and sprinkle the chicken with the brown sugar.
  3. Bake until the thigh pieces yield clear yellow juice when pricked with a fork, 50 to 60 minutes, basting two or three times with the pan juices once the chicken begins to brown. (When basting, do not brush off the sugar. If the chicken browns too quickly, cover lightly with foil.)
  4. Transfer the chicken pieces to a warm serving platter and top with the prunes, olives and capers; keep warm. The New York Times would have you place the roasting pan over medium heat and bring the pan juices to a boil. Reduce to about 1/2 cup. Strain into a heatproof bowl, add the parsley and pour over the chicken. The Silver Palate website skips the reduction and simply spoons the juices over the chicken.

Image via flickr

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