The Return of Chicken Marbella


Chicken Marbella was a popular dinner party dish in the 1990s. Its sweet/savory blend is appealing, and the ingredients list is rather unique.

Despite the apparent complexity of the dish, the preparation is wildly simple.

The original came from the Silver Palate Cookbook, and used whole chickens cut into pieces. Someone described the dish to me, and I created this version using boneless breasts, but you could certainly use any cut desired. This is a great dish to make when hosting a gathering (it multiplies easily) because the prep is done ahead and the sauce makes itself as the chicken bakes.

The variety of colors, flavors and textures deliver a pretty, show-stopping entrée, and the effort by the cook is fairly minimal.

I have not tried it, but I suspect this preparation would work well with boneless lamb shoulder. It would require increased marinating, a longer cooking time and I would cover the pan for most of the time in the oven, but it has potential.

The dish has a lot going on: For that reason, the best accompaniments are basic flavors — brown or white rice, crusty bread, simple green salad or steamed vegetables.

Because the main course has a good bit of sweetness to it, I suggest keeping dessert simple — some packaged cookies, a tart sorbet or dark chocolates.

David B Townsend/Thinkstock

Chicken Marbella

Serves four

  • 4 boneless chicken breasts
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt
  • Lots of fresh cracked pepper
  • ¼ cup white vinegar
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup pitted prunes, quartered
  • ½ cup green olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon capers with juice
  • ½ cup white wine
  • ¼ cup brown sugar

In a large Tupperware or Ziploc bag, mix the garlic, salt, pepper, oil, vinegar, prunes, capers and olives. Add the chicken to coat, and marinate for 2-24 hours.

In a large baking dish, pour the chicken mixture. Be sure the chicken pieces are in a single layer; spoon the marinade over and around the chicken.

Pour the wine and sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over the chicken.

Bake at 350 for 45-60 minutes, basting frequently, until done.


Winter Greens Chopped Salad

Serves four

This salad uses the hardy greens of winter for a fresh counterpoint to the main dish. Chopping the ingredients enables them to absorb the dressing a bit more easily. Because the greens are fairly robust, this is a good move.

The dressing has a touch of sweetness to balance out the bitterness of the greens. You can dress this ahead of time (an hour or so) to allow the flavors to meld.

6 cups chopped mixed winter greens: cabbage, kale, escarole and radicchio. Choose your favorites, and use different colors for visual appeal.

  • 4 carrots, shredded
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • ½ teaspoon mustard
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Mix the greens and carrots in a large salad bowl.

Mix the dressing in a small bowl, whisking with a fork to blend.

Toss, then let the salad sit for 30 minutes at room temperature to blend flavors, or serve immediately.


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