Tangy and sweet. Savory and not-so-subtle. Chicken Marbella is many things, but it’s not Spanish, despite the name.
“The Silver Palate Cookbook” co-author Sheila Lukins is credited with creating this Spanish- and Moroccan-inspired chicken dish that includes olives, prunes, white wine and capers. She started serving it through her New York catering company in the late 1970s, and a recipe for the dish was included in the blockbuster cookbook she co-wrote with Julee Rosso in 1982.
Although she wasn’t the first person to make a chicken dish with these ingredients, the chicken Marbellas that have been served at dinner parties and Passover seders over the past 40 years lead back to Lukins.
Melanie Lionello created her own spin on the dish in “Frugal Mediterranean Cooking: Easy, Affordable Recipes for Lifelong Health,” which came out in December. Instead of using a mix of chicken cuts, she uses all drumsticks, which sit in the mixture of olive oil, vinegar, olives, capers and prunes overnight. Just before baking, add the white wine and brown sugar, which will caramelize as the dish bakes in the oven. If chicken Marbella is usually too sweet for you, cut out the prunes and cut down on the brown sugar.
Now, this is definitely not a traditional Mediterranean recipe. It actually originated in New York as an Italian/Jewish hybrid recipe. However, the mainstays of the original recipe are quintessentially Mediterranean and full of flavor, so although it’s not traditional, I knew I had to include it because it still speaks to the heart of Mediterranean cooking. I’ve tweaked and changed this recipe around quite a bit for my own preferences, making it less sweet, with a cheaper cut of chicken and an easier cooking method so you can still enjoy it on a regular basis. Although it might be tempting to shorten the marinade time, it’s important that you let it marinate overnight because this process tenderizes the chicken and allows the skins to really crisp up once cooked.
• 3 1/2 tablespoons capers
• 8 cloves garlic, peeled and bruised
• 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
• 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
• 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
• 3/4 cup dry white wine
• 1 heaping tablespoon brown sugar
• Roasted or steamed potatoes, for serving
Layer the drumsticks into a large shallow baking dish. Add the prunes, olives, capers, garlic and bay leaves, making sure you push them down into the dish and wedge them in between the chicken. Pour the olive oil and red wine vinegar over the dish and season with salt and pepper. Put a lid on the baking dish and let it marinate in the fridge overnight.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Take the dish from the fridge and, using tongs, turn each drumstick over. Add the wine and evenly sprinkle the brown sugar over the top. Bake with the lid off for 45 minutes, then increase the oven temperature to 425 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes before serving with some roasted or steamed potatoes. Serves 4.
– From “Frugal Mediterranean Cooking: Easy, Affordable Recipes for Lifelong Health” by Melanie Lionello (Page Street Publishing, $21.99)