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Chicken Marbella

In the mid-1970s, Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins launched The Silver Palate, a tiny take-out shop in Manhattan, featuring really good food to be enjoyed at home, on a picnic, or a special occasion or office party. The shop was an instant success and the food was uniquely special as the 1970s was a gateway to a new way of cooking, a combining of – or inspired by- recipes from many cultures but with a distinctly modern twist. Chicken Marbella is one of the recipes these two very smart women prepared.

The Silver Palate cookbook came out in 1979, Soon mothers, daughters — even inspired men — were delighting themselves, family and friends with their recipes. My aunt and cousins, who lived at that time in Connecticut, were fans of the Silver Palate, and Chicken Marbella was a favorite. It has a Mediterranean flair, combining dried fruit, olives and capers — a delicious blend of sweet, savory and salty.

Recently I was considering what to make and suddenly I remembered Chicken Marbella and thought  you might like it too. I was inspired by a recipe from a woman who switched out the whole, cup-up chicken for chicken thighs. I also added my own personal touches. I encourage you to adapt it to your taste as well.

I served the chicken over polenta as it was a chilly day on the cusp of spring and I wanted something warm and soothing. The polenta absorbed the juices beautifully.

One big deviation I took from the original recipe is that all the ingredients were marinated together for hours, but only the chicken itself was cooked. The fruits, olives and capers were added to the cooked chicken and served on the platter. This seems really dangerous to me, especially given the enormous number of food recalls these days. Salmonella from the chicken could easily contaminate the other ingredients. So I suggest adding the fruit, olives and capers during the last 12-to-20 minutes of cooking the chicken or heat them in a saucepan over the stove until they’ve boiled for several minutes.

One last thought that I didn’t include when I made the recipe, is to serve fresh chopped basil mixed with the parsley and Marcona almonds either coarsely chopped and sprinkled over the chicken, or served as a condiment.


Chicken Marbella



2 lbs boneless and skinless chicken thighs

68 garlic cloves peeled and finely chopped or put through garlic press

2 tablespoons fresh oregano (1 tablespoon dried) crumbled or coarsely chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1⁄3 cup red wine vinegar

1⁄3 cup olive oil

12 pitted prunes, whole or in halves

6 dried apricots, cut in half (optional)

1⁄2 cup pitted green olives (I use castelvetrano olives but big green Spanish olives with or without pimentos are fine)

1⁄3 cup capers with a bit of juice

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 teaspoons Rain’s Choice pure Vanilla Extract

3⁄4 cup white wine

1⁄3 cup Italian parsley, or a blend of parsley and basil, coarsely chopped


In a large bowl combine chicken thighs, garlic, oregano, pepper and coarse salt to taste, vinegar, olive oil, prunes, apricots (if using), olives, capers and juice, bay leaves, brown sugar, vanilla, and white wine.

Cover and let marinate, refrigerated, 4 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Arrange chicken pieces in a single layer in a large, shallow baking pan and spoon marinade over it evenly.

Bake for 40 minutes, basting frequently with pan juices. Add prunes, apricots if using, olives and capers plus last of marinade (without the bay leaves) to the chicken, and continue to cook until chicken is done, approximately 10 to 20 more minutes. Chicken is done when, pricked with a fork, juices are clear yellow.

Transfer chicken, prunes, olives and capers to a serving platter. Moisten with a few spoonfuls of pan juices. Heat the remaining pan juices in a small saucepan, reducing the juices slightly, then pour over the chicken or place in a bowl or sauce boat and serve on the side. Check sauce to adjust salt and pepper.

Note: To serve Chicken Marbella cold, cool to room temperature in cooking juices before transferring to a serving platter. If chicken has been covered and refrigerated, allow it to return to room temperature before serving. Spoon reserved juices over chicken. Equally delicious and refreshing on a hot afternoon or evening.

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Patricia Rain
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