Lately I have been reading blog posts and tweets about Sheila Lukins, the American culinary pioneer and co-author of the Silver Palate cookbooks. She died in late August, and many friends and fans remember her and her scrumptious food fondly. Chicken Marbella was by far her most famous dish: an unexpected concoction of chicken with prunes, olives, and capers so popular that you couldn’t escape it in the 1980′s.
I set out to make Chicken Marbella because it had been quite some time since I had it. Once I began to gather my mise en place, I realized that I didn’t have prunes (only dried apricots), and had mixed olives (not all green). I was out of red wine vinegar, but had sherry vinegar. And I had half a bottle of red wine already open so why bother with a new bottle of white? I was determined to get those flavors brewing in my kitchen and ultimately in my mouth, so I persevered with the same principles and ratios albeit on a slightly different path.
Chicken “Lorena” emerged:
8 chicken thighs, or 1 chicken quartered
4 cloves very finely chopped garlic (like a paste)
2 tablespoons dried oregano
kosher salt and black pepper to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1/2 cup dried apricots
1/2 cup pitted mixed olives
1/4 cup capers with the juice
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup red wine
chopped parsley for garnish, optional
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl combine the garlic, oregano, kosher salt and pepper to taste, vinegar, olive oil, apricots, olives, capers, and juice. Add the chicken and toss well to coat. Cover and let marinate, refrigerated, overnight.
Arrange chicken in a single layer in a large, shallow baking pan and spoon the fruit/olives over it evenly. Sprinkle chicken pieces with brown sugar and pour the wine around them.
Bake uncovered for 50 minutes to 1 hour, basting every 10 minutes with pan juices.
Serve the dish warm or cold. It actually improves after a few days in the fridge.