Back in the early 1990’s I catered a lot of weddings. One dish that made it’s way onto almost every menu was my version of The Silver Palate Cookbook’s Chicken Marbella.
Chicken Marbella was perhaps the signature dish from this hugely successful cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins – owners of the popular New York take-out restaurant for which the cookbook was named. I can’t say enough good things about this cookbook. It is a true classic and the source of much of my early inspiration in the kitchen. If you don’t own a copy, you owe it to yourself to get one: The Silver Palate Cookbook.
Back to the Marbella. The Silver Palate version is prepared similarly to a tagine. Chicken pieces (bone-in, skin-on) are marinated overnight then cooked in the marinade with prunes, olives and capers. Bone-in, skin-on chicken is delicious, but messy. I wanted to serve Chicken Marbella, but I needed a version that could be eaten gracefully by someone holding a small plate at a wedding reception or cocktail party. So I adapted the recipe and came up with a version equally as good. Sometimes as I worked the buffet, refilling platters and clearing dishes, I’d hear, “this is the best chicken I have ever tasted.” Music to my ears after working for three days straight to prep for a wedding.
Almost all of the ingredients from the original recipe are the same, but instead of marinating the chicken overnight before it is cooked, I pour the warm marinade over grilled, sliced chicken breasts and then marinate everything for a minimum of 4 hours in the refrigerator.
Our Cook for the Cure® PINK party gave me the chance to make one of my favorite all-time chicken recipes and I must say, it still tastes just as good as I remembered – The chicken is lightly sweet, yet tangy and surrounded by prunes, apricots and green olives, seasoned with oregano and parsley. Chicken Breast Marbella can be reheated in the marinade, or served cold or at room temperature. Personally, I like to eat it and serve it cold.
The recipe below will serve 12, but it can easily be doubled tripled, quadrupled… just make sure you have enough refrigeration space to hold the chicken while it marinades.
- 6 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 cup white wine
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup dried pitted prunes, cut in half
- 1/2 cup dried apricots, cut in half
- 1/2 cup pitted Spanish green olives
- 1/2 cup capers and a little juice
- 1 Tbsp. minced garlic
- 1/8 cup dried oregano
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
- COOK THE CHICKEN:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Season the chicken with salt and pepper.
- Heat a large, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Spray the pan with a little olive oil non-stick spray (or brush lightly with olive oil) and place three of the chicken breasts in the pan. Cook the chicken until it begins to brown, about 2 minutes, then turn and lightly brown them on the other side.
- Remove chicken to a baking sheet lined with foil (the chicken will not be fully cooked at this point).
- Wipe out the pan if necessary, then repeat the browning process with the remaining three chicken breasts.
- Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake the chicken just until it is cooked through. (Test by cutting into a piece or using a meat thermometer – chicken should be 165 degrees). Be careful not to overcook the chicken or it will be dry. When the chicken is fully cooked, remove from the oven to cool.
- PREPARE THE MARINADE:
- In a large saucepan, combine the red wine vinegar, olive oil, white wine, brown sugar, prunes, dried apricots, Spanish olives, capers, garlic, and oregano. Heat the marinade to a boil and cook for one minute more. Stir in the parsley and remove from heat.
- SLICE THE CHICKEN & ADD THE MARINADE:
- Slice each chicken breast diagonally into thin strips. Place the chicken into a glass or ceramic casserole or other dish with sides, and pour the marinade over the chicken. Wrap tightly and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to two days.
- Chicken Breast Marbella can be reheated before serving covered tightly with foil or a lid. Or, serve it cold or at room temperature.