Winter Comfort Food

When guests are up for skiing there’s less time sitting about the house visiting. I’m always on the lookout for food that can be prepped ahead, then tossed in the oven and served, yet is still “holidays and guests worthy” as opposed to say the comfort food of mom’s tuna noodle casserole.

At a Women Giving Back luncheon they’d served the Silver Palate Cookbook Chicken Marbella. This dish can be great in the summer served at room temperature or as a hardy, warm winter meal. It’s been around for a very very long time. However, I have the excuse of having been a strict vegetarian for fifteen years so I’ve missed many of the tried and true standbys of years gone by. A web search after the luncheon yielded’s version, which is what I’ve stuck with. Like most recipes, I alter it a tad to suit my tastes – in this case so little that I won’t add “adapted from” to the recipe. You can make it exactly as is and be thrilled. My changes to their recipe (which serves 10 to 12) include:

·  Adding more prunes (which are now being rebranded as ‘dried plums’ btw) so that each person served has four. I love the flavor of the plums steeped in the sauce and only one each is just too much of a teaser.

· Then (yes, gasp to all the true foodies who assert dark meat is more flavorful) I prefer white meat. A nod to the veggie days – I’ve only added chicken and fish to my diet since then and dark meat is too ‘meaty’ for me. My idiosyncrasies aside, if you like dark meat try drumsticks which get rav reviews from others. I use only chicken breasts.

· In winter, getting more sauce by reducing the amount of chicken yet keeping the rest of the recipe as is. This gives you much stronger flavor as you have more olives, capers and garlic per bite of chicken. Last batch was four gigunda chicken breasts (most of us just had a half a breast which was still more than the Weight Watcher’s eyeball portion sizing of meat protein that would fit on the palm of your hand).  I’ve made it with both skin on and skin off chicken breasts. Both are good, with skin on the fat in the skin will give you a bit more moisture and sauce. With skin off, make sure you put a tight foil cover (or fitted glass lid) over your baking pan. You’ll cook away the sauce and it would be dry otherwise.  I also foil cover the chicken breasts with skin, but the covering can be loose.

· I love the flavor of capers and olives, but another idiosyncrasy is I don’t like to bite into many whole. I prefer the blended flavor you get when you pulse the garlic, oregano, olives, capers, salt, pepper vinegar and oil a few times in the Cuisinart. This paste is spooned over the chicken, then white wine  is poured over.

· If I don’t have guests but am doing pre-baked meals just for me – I skip the sugar. It’s lovely without it.

· I’ve looked at the sauce in the pan and added ½ cup more white wine for measure (I go for a mild Sauvignon Blanc)

· Finally, I like to add veggies to my pan (see my top paragraph about enjoying guests). One inch chunks of carrot or potato wedges (don’t make them too big) will cook in the 50 minute allotted time. Add them after you marinate the dish.

You’ll notice from this list that you don’t have to be perfect with it. I’ve also made it without the overnight marinade and it’s still a good dish.


Silver Palate Cookbook Chicken Marbella

4 chickens, 2 1/2 pounds each, quartered
1 head of garlic, peeled and finely pureed
1/4 cup dried oregano
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup pitted prunes
1/2 cup pitted Spanish green olives
1/2 cup capers with a bit of juice
6 bay leaves
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white wine
1/4 cup Italian parsley or fresh coriander (cilantro), finely chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Epicurious’ instructions:
In a large bowl combine chicken quarters, garlic, oregano, pepper and coarse salt to taste, vinegar, olive oil, prunes, olives, capers and juice, and bay leaves. Cover and let marinate, refrigerated, overnight.

Arrange chicken in a single layer in one or two large, shallow baking pans and spoon marinade over it evenly. Sprinkle chicken pieces with brown sugar and pour white wine around them.

Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, basting frequently with pan juices. Chicken is done when thigh pieces, pricked with a fork at their thickest, yield clear yellow (rather than pink) juice.

With a slotted spoon transfer chicken, prunes, olives and capers to a serving platter. Moisten with a few spoonfuls of pan juices and sprinkle generously with parsley or cilantro. Pass remaining pan juices in a sauceboat.

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 some of the reserved juices over chicken.

The pan photo is before baking, the dish is my leftovers photographed (didn’t pull out the camera with company here).
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5 comments on “Winter Comfort Food

  1. Katerina says:

    Hi, I come from Tuesday Night Supper Club. I’ve made Chicken Marbella couple of months ago and I loved it. I am sure your version is as adorable.

  2. Melissa says:

    That looks so yummy! Thanks for sharing over at Tuesday Tell All!

  3. this looks quite delicious…i have the silver palate cookbook here somewhere…but it has been years since i have used it. i would definitely like to try this chicken and am so glad you brought it to the forefront. thank you for sharing with tuesday night supper club! Happy New Year!

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