Recipe: Chicken Marbella and Beer-a-rita

I will not be pigeonholed into simply “restaurant blogger”, and everyone knows I’m far too busy to be a consistent “recipe blogger”.   I just like food, darnit, and I write about it.  So here’s a recipe from the restaurant blogger.

Recently, we had a couple of friends over for a leisurely dinner.  I thought and thought… and thought and thought… and couldn’t come up with anything to make.  You’d think I had no internet, nor did I have a cookbook collection in the house.  I was just feeling uninspired.  I picked up a recently purchased copy of the Silver Palate Cookbook, considered the first modern “gourmet” cookbook, and took a gander.  Then I remembered Chicken Marbella, the first main dish at the Silver Palate.  The ingredients are simple: chicken, oregano, vinegar, garlic, white wine, prunes, capers, and olives; the preparation nearly mindless, and the cook time both short and virtually unattended.  Bingo.

As far as ingredient sourcing, this one wasn’t complicated.  Chicken thigh quarters from Luken’s at Findlay Market; garlic from the farmer’s market at Findlay; prunes and capers from Trader Joe’s; olives from Whole Foods’ olive bar.  Other than halving it, I made no changes to the recipe. This is, however, a recipe that halves OR multiplies quite beautifully.  You can make it for a crowd, or just for your family.

Despite being so simple, it ends up a dish with complex flavors:  delicious chicken, with some sweet, salty, sour and savory notes that blend together beautifully.  I love the way the skin crisps with a hint of sweetness from the sugar, and how ordinary prunes are transformed by the capers, olives and white wine.  It got rave reviews from my guests, as well.   I served it with couscous, which I prepared with chicken broth, golden raisins, pine nuts and a bit of cayenne.  My Israeli upstairs neighbor said it was great– I take that as high praise.  He also asked me for the recipe, so Ilan, I hope you enjoy!

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Chicken Marbella, from Epicurious.com and the Silver Palate Cookbook

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

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

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.

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And what did we serve to drink? What ended up being called, by the end of the night, a beer-a-rita.  I had probably had one (or two) by the time I took a picture of the glass.  I love those glasses– I see them on Mad Men every week, but my mom used them when I was growing up, when she entertained.  My family heirlooms revolve around cocktails.  Oh, well.

This recipe is actually from my friend Beth, a reader of this blog, who brought this to a 4th of July party.  I didn’t taste it then, but our friend Tracy just loved them.  I experimented– and it turned out well.  You could probably use tequila and Corona in this recipe as well, to make it more margarita/Mexican inspired, but whatever fairly inexpensive beer you have in the refrigerator will do quite well.  Upon first taste, honestly, it’s sort of odd– but the more you drink it, the better it tastes, and by the end of the night we were having a grand old time.  Consume with caution!

Ingredients:

1 can of frozen limeade

Vodka, enough to fill the empty can of limeade

3 bottles of beer, any kind, preferably something inexpensive.  Light beers and Corona all work well.

In a pitcher, mix the frozen limeade, vodka, and beer.  Pour over ice, and garnish with lemon.