Cooking For Others: Marbella’s Comeback

EVENT: A Weekend Away with Friends
VENUE: Kate’s House, Hudson Valley
TYPE: Friday Night Post-Drive Dinner
MENU: Chicken Marbella; Orzo; Milk Bar Compost Cookies

According to my mother, for a while in the 1980s, Chicken Marbella was all the rage. The Silver Palate Cookbook came out, and filled as it was with creative, delicious, and dinner party-worthy dishes, the surprising ingredients (prunes, capers, brown sugar??) and winning flavor combination of Chicken Marbella meant that it was served at party after party back then

When Kate invited a bunch of us out to the country for a weekend, like Phoebe before me, I volunteered to bring dinner. I thought Friday night was the best for my contribution; it would mean we wouldn’t have to go into town after arriving and we’d have time to relax at the house following the day of work and the drive. And because I was carrying the meal, I got to go in the first car, which left the city about an hour before the second. But with our detour, we all arrived at the house simultaneously.

As I unpacked the chicken and set water to boil for orzo, everyone opened beers and settled into the weekend. I imagined how different (and how much more expensive) this all would have been if we’d had to reorganize into cars, go into town, find a table for ten at the Mexican place. This way, we got to relax immediately, and maybe a little too much–instead of going to the local college bar to dance, we fell asleep in front of the living room TV.

The next day we spent walking around a beautiful park and the cute Hudson Valley towns. We made a big breakfast, but then during the day we drank hot chocolate and snacked on the leftover compost cookies Michelle brought. The cookies were so delicious and filling, we never sat down to eat a proper lunch. So by the late afternoon we were starving, and, in our hunger haze, we planned the heartiest meal ever: steak, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, roasted asparagus. All of us girls went to the grocery store and came back equipped with ingredients, and prepping and cooking together (under my dominion, of course) was fun. Emma chided me for not getting enough cheese as she grated more and more into the mac; Kate and Julie mashed the potatoes; and Michelle took care of trimming, oiling, and roasting the veggies. Though I was glad I’d been able to feed everyone the night before, I wouldn’t have traded in the evening of making a mess in the kitchen for all the Chicken Marbella in the world.

From my kitchen, where I’m bringing Marbella back, to yours,


Chicken Marbella
Serves 10
Recipe from
The Silver Palate Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins. Copyright © 1982 by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins.

1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup pitted prunes
1/2 cup pitted Spanish green olives
1/2 cup capers with a bit of juice
6 bay leaves
1 head garlic , peeled and finely puréed
1/4 cup dried oregano
Coarse salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 chickens (2 1/2 pounds each), quartered
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley or fresh cilantro , finely chopped

Combine the olive oil, vinegar, prunes, olives, capers and juice, bay leaves, garlic, oregano and salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add the chicken and stir to coat. Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350°. Arrange the chicken in a single layer in one or two large, shallow baking pans and spoon the marinade over it evenly. Sprinkle the chicken pieces with the brown sugar and pour the white wine around them. Bake, basting frequently with the pan juices, until the thigh pieces yield clear yellow (rather than pink) juice when pricked with a fork, 50 minutes to 1 hour.

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

Note: To serve Chicken Marbella cold, cool to room temperature in the cooking juices before transferring the pieces to a serving platter. If the chicken has been covered and refrigerated, reheat it in the juices, then allow it to come to room temperature before serving. Spoon some of the reserved juice over the chicken.

Posted in: Cooking for Others
  • shayma

    there truly is smthg so comforting about slow cooked prunes with chicken. a wonderful meal. hope you had a lovely weekend. x shayma

  • MelissaB

    Mmmm. Chicken Marbella never went out of style. I make it pretty regularly, and a very hip friend served it at a high falootin’ dinner party last fall. You can’t screw it up, and it tastes so much more impressive than the effort it really takes.

  • Holly

    Hi Phoebe and Cara!!
    I made your Secret Ingredient Beef Stew that was featured on food52. I tried looking for the right entry blog on your site so i can comment in the appropriate place but couldnt find it.
    Anyway, i just wanted to let you gals know that the dish came out wonderfully! I’ve been following your blog for almost half a year now and i’ve made a couple of dishes from your site (Butternut mac n cheese, and you convinced me to buy Rose Levy’s Heavenly Cakes book!)

    Just a thanks and you guys are AWESOME!

    btw: ive taken some pics of the dish… =)

  • Kate

    I love the sweet and salty aspect of this. Not to mention, with this rainy weather, this sounds like a lovely and comforting dinner.

  • SeattleDee

    What a treat to discover a new generation of cooks enjoying Chx Marbella. It has long been a reliable go-to recipe for make-and-hold dinners… after football games, ski touring, boat shows, etc. We love it.

    Loved the “hunger haze… heartiest meal” piece. What’s better than messing about in the kitchen with friends?

  • Anonymous

    I LOVE chicken marbella!!

  • Jane

    I have a couple of Silver Palate cookbooks and they are well worth your while. I learned of your blog on Barefoot Contessa and will be reading along!
    Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

  • Mandabear52485

    The Marbella looks absolutely delicious! .. wish I had planned to make this for Xmas dinner.

    I really like the look of your cookware. What kind do you prefer to use & where can I get some like it ??

  • Panoramicvillas

    mhmmm defently one ill be trying chicken marbella !

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