This is adapted from a very famous recipe called Chicken Marbala. It was the signature dish of the Silver Palate, a wildly popular catering company in New York in the 1980s that published two wildly popular cookbooks. If you are someone who cooks food for decadent parties, I cannot recommend these two books strongly enough. They are amazing. My first year of college, I did some cat sitting for one of my professors in her Upper West Side apartment during Spring Break. Her apartment was right above the Silver Palate and I loved to look at the food there (it was out of my price range at the time). A few years later, an older friend of mine who was a native new yorker and a big foody, took me under her wing and gave me a list of cookbooks to read. These included my favourite books of food essays Home Cooking and More Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin and the Silver Palate cookbooks. My friend told me that I had to own the Silver Palate cookbook because it had the recipe for Chicken Marbala which was, in her expert opinion, the best food on earth.
So, fast forward to my current obsession with plums in all of their forms…Wild Gabriola Plum Chutney and Gabriola Orchard Plum Marmalade, Mi-cuit and Pickled Plums, Garam Masala baked chicken with Pickled Plums, Pork chops in Boozy Plum Jam Sauce, Plum marmalade and Almond Custard Tart, Plum Ricotta Tart with Almonds…Wow it really is crazy when you list them all like that. ANYWAY! Last week, I still had a portion of my pickled plums (made with prunes) in my fridge and they needed to be used up. I decided to make Chicken Marbala with them to serve to my friend Tara. It was so good that I made it again to serve to my friends Rima and Greg a few days later. The second time, I just used normal prunes as called for in the original recipe and also added some of the extra yummy flavours that were in my pickled plums (coriander and mustard seeds, orange peel, arbol chili pepper). As perfect as the original recipe is it also responds well to improvisation. You do not need to follow it exactly…use a different kind of vinegar, substitute apple cider for the white wine, reduce the sugar, add in a spice that you like or some other kind of dried fruit (apricots would be good)…you get the idea.
One of the best things about this recipe is that you prep it in advance (it needs to marinate). All you need to do the day you serve it is let it bake. You can even bake it in advance and serve it at room temperature. So this is a great recipe if you are having folks over for dinner after working all day. Its also a great recipe for a huge party…the original recipe calls for four chickens! The recipe below makes a MUCH smaller amount, just enough to serve 4 or 5 people.
- 1 and 1/2 lbs chicken pieces
- 1/2 head of garlic, peeled and minced
- 1/8 cup dried oregano
- salt and pepper
- 1/4 cup red wine or cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup pitted spanish green olives
- 1/4 cup capers and a bit of juice
- 3 bay leaves
- 1/2 cup pitted prunes or 1/2 cup pickled plums
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds (optional, use only if you are using dried prunes)
- 1 teaspoon whole mustard sees (optional, use only if you are using dried prunes)
- 1 arbol chili pepper (optional, use only if you are using dried prunes)
- peel of 1/2 orange (optional, use only if you are using dried prunes)
- juice of half an orange (optional, use only if you are using dried prunes)
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup white wine
- Combine everything except the white wine and sugar in a very large bowl and marinate over night. Turn it a few times to make sure that all of the chicken spends some time with the marinade
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Place the Chicken and all of the marinade in a roasting pan. Pour the white wine around chicken and sprinkle the sugar on top.
- Bake for 50-60 minutes. If your chicken is cold from the fridge when you put it in the oven you will need to let it cook for an hour. If it is at room temperature when you put it in 50 minutes is fine.
- Serve hot or at room temperature.
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