chicken marbella

In challenge on December 10, 2009 at 2:27 pm

chicken marbella used to be one of my mom’s go-to fancy, yet comfort-foody dishes for company and i have great memories of it. (generally eaten upstairs on a tray with rare tv privileges and the sound of conversation and glasses clicking wafting up from downstairs.)

although we didn’t call it marbella then. we called it “chicken with prunes and olives.”

seems this legendary dish rings some bells for tom sietsema, too.

anyway, before it made too much of a come back and showed up on all the blogs, i decided to see if it really was as good as i remembered.

most recipes called for chicken pieces, but i chose to use a whole chicken and spatchcock* it. this involves using a great pair of kitchen shears to cut out the backbone, allowing you to lay the chicken down flat – truly the most violent thing i’ve ever done to a chicken.

a day before you plan to serve your marbella, start marinating the chicken.

the marinade is olive oil, red wine vinegar, dried oregano, salt, pepper, bay leaves and garlic, halved green olives, prunes (i halved these as well, partly to make sure they didn’t have pits in them) and capers. [full recipe below]

i used a microplane on the garlic instead of mincing it so i could guarantee no one bit down on a chunk of it. the microplane literally turns garlic into a cloud. in a good way.

i flipped the chicken once during marinating, and made sure to rub plenty on the top.

at some point i realized that i should have removed the skin on the chicken, since that’s where all the marinade flavors were going to end up and most people don’t want to eat skin. but then, when i pulled off the skin (also rather violent of me), i realized i lost a lot of marinade. so then i proceeded to add an extra tablespoon of vinegar, olive oil and oregano, and some additional salt and pepper. don’t make the same mistake with the skin. however, if you feel a little low on marinade, i wouldn’t hesitate in adding a touch more.

also, make sure you take the chicken out of the fridge one hour before putting it in the oven so it has time to come up to room temp.

right before putting it in the oven, add half a cup of white wine and top everything with half a cup of brown sugar.

the chicken is supposed to bake at 350 for about an hour or until done. we were really pleased with how moist it turned out, and i think this is because i turned the oven down to between 300 and 325 (we kept fiddling with it…), covered the chicken in foil for most of the baking, and left it in for almost two hours.

either way you bake it, make sure to spoon marinade from the dish over the bird often.

since i was so tickled with the new baking dish i bought specifically for the occasion, i served the chicken directly from the oven in the middle of the table with a knife and spoon for juices. (i wish this picture showed the dish better. it’s really lovely.)

i think “family style” works best for this dish because people always want more and this way they don’t have to be jumping up and running into the kitchen every two seconds!

and please serve with crusty bread for soaking up the sauce, which is arguably the best part.

i am so pleased to report that chicken marbella lived up to my (high) expectations and was a big hit with my guests. i absolutely recommend it as a high-impact entree for dinner parties since it takes relatively little work, leaving you free to hang out with (and then impress!) your guests.

[complete original recipe here.]

* i originally said here that i butterflied the chicken, but we learn something new everyday at icf, don’t we? according to my mother, “one doesn’t butterfly poultry–that’s for legs o’ lamb–one ‘spatchcocks’ chickens, game hens, and even turkeys if you’re brave enough.” got that?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: