I consistently reach for the big bowl of lemons on my counter and a handful of herbs whenever I decide on a “something chicken” dinner. Even though these components are simple, they are always the most satisfying to me. That is, until I tried Chicken Marbella.
This dish comes from Sheila Lukin’s iconic Silver Palate cookbook, and develops such a complexity with minimal effort. Lukin began incorporating Mediterranean flavors into her food when she started a catering business in the late 1970s. She then opened The Silver Palate food shop in New York Chicken Marbella was one of the first main dishes served at the shop. See the full recipe here.
I was introduced to this dish a couple of years ago at a friend’s bachelorette weekend in Lake Tahoe. My friend’s sister marched into the cabin with about four Ziploc bags of chicken parts marinating in olives, prunes, capers, garlic and spices. I hovered in the kitchen and watched as she added white wine and brown sugar to trays of chicken in the oven. The result was tender chicken in this unique, briny sauce complemented by the candy-like prunes. She spooned the chicken over herb cous cous and I have not forgotten it since.
To recreate this dish in a shorter amount of time on a weeknight, I used two pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts. I’m normally all for the amplified flavor of bone-in, skin-on cuts of chicken, but for a quicker version this worked splendidly. The key with Chicken Marbella (and I can’t stress this enough) is to marinate overnight. Trust me on this one, you don’t want to shortchange yourself.
Note: If you opt for the boneless version, cooking will take about 30 minutes less. Just make sure the chicken’s internal temperature reads 165 degrees on a meat thermometer.