Chicken Marbella

The Silver Palate's Chicken Marbella--quartered chickens marinated overnight in oil, vinegar, capers, olives, prunes, and herbs then baked with brown sugar and white wine--is a classic. This version calls for boneless, skinless breasts. Either way it's delicious.

Chicken Marbella Recipe

More than any other recipe in Sheila Lukins’s wildly successful The Silver Palate Cookbook, which she coauthored with Julee Rosso in 1979, Chicken Marbella became a standard at dinner parties — bold, sweet, and savory flavor made with lots of garlic, vinegar, brown sugar, oregano, dried plums, and olives. When I make it, I use boneless chicken breasts and double the amount of olives and prunes — oops, I mean dried plums. This recipe has been updated. Originally published May 3, 2005.Joan Nathan

Classic Chicken Marbella

The great cookbook author and cook Joan Nathan, whose version this is, prefers boneless, skinless chicken breasts. The recipe everyone loves, from The Silver Palate Cookbook, calls for quartered chickens (as in the photo). Make no bones about it, the choice is yours. (Sorry, couldn’t help myself.)

Chicken Marbella Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 25 M
  • 3 H
  • Makes 10 to 12 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, halved (or two 3 1/2 to 4-pound chickens, quartered)
  • 1 garlic head, finely puréed
  • 1/4 cup dried oregano
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups pitted dried plums
  • 1 cup pitted green olives, or a mix of olives such as Greek, Moroccan, or French
  • 1/2 cup capers, with about a tablespoon of their juice
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley or cilantro leaves

Directions

  • 1. Place the chicken (breast or pieces) in a large bowl. Cover it with the garlic, oregano, coarse salt and pepper, vinegar, olive oil, dried plums, olives, capers and juice, and bay leaves. Rub the chicken well with the marinade and refrigerate, covered, ideally overnight, but at least for 2 hours.
  • 2. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
  • 3. Arrange the chicken in a single layer in 1 or 2 large, shallow baking pans and spoon the marinade over it evenly. Sprinkle the chicken pieces with brown sugar and pour white wine around but not on them.
  • 4. Bake for about 40 minutes, basting every 10 minutes with the pan juices.
  • 5. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken, dried plums, olives, and capers to a serving platter. Moisten with a few spoonfuls of pan juices and sprinkle generously with the parsley or cilantro. Serve the remaining pan juices in a separate bowl.
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Recipe Testers Reviews

This smelled absolutely delicious as it cooked. The flavor was excellent as well, quite sweet; I found it went well with a saltier side dish. If I were to change anything, it would be to reduce the pan sauces a bit more before serving.

This is a delicious and simple to make recipe. I actually had all the ingredients at home, which made it easy for me. The contrast of the sweetness of the dried plums and sugar with the vinegar, olives, and capers gave the recipe a sweet-and-sour taste. I found that the chicken tasted even better the next day, since it absorbed the taste of all the other ingredients.

I thought this was a little sweet, but my family went nuts for this dish. They even ate it the next day as leftovers, which for some of them is unheard of. The mixed olives are attractive and tasty alongside the chicken.

Every last one of my guests raved about this dish. The blend of flavors and textures is exciting to the palate, and it is visually stunning. I called my mother the next day to tell her that I have a winning recipe for her to make the next time she hosts her bridge club.

This was an excellent choice for a casual Sunday-afternoon get together. Everyone, even the teenagers in the group, loved this recipe. As it was baking, the bold flavors of the dish filled the house with a tantalizing aroma of what was to come. The end result was a beautiful mix of flavors, colors, and textures tasting as fabulous as it smelled.

Comments

  1. This is excellent and originally I found this recipe years ago in one of the Silver Palate cookbooks. Serve this with couscous. Great dish for a crowd.

  2. Yikes, what a way to ruin a classic! Boneless skinless breasts? Not what you’re showing in the photo, and never what one should use for this dish. I’ve been making the Silver Palate version since 1981, most recently two days ago – and it’s always with a whole 4-1/2 pound chicken I’ve cut up into 10 pieces. And the lovely sauce gets reduced and poured over.

    Chicken Marbella

    1. Roni, good catch on the photo. I’ll make a note of that. But this is Joan Nathan’s version of the dish and in the headnote makes it clear says prefers boneless skinless breasts rather than quartered chicken. Our testers liked it, too. But I’ll add a note so that folks can make up their own mind.

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