Chicken Marbella — The Dependable Wedding Escort

16 Nov

. . . of Savvy Single Host/esses!

Chicken Marbella — baked in 1 hour

I acquired this recipe a decade ago from my sister-in-law. I was looking for a ‘dinner party entrée’ that required no effort on my part once my company arrived, an impressive dish that didn’t break the bank. It was a huge hit, easy to prepare and very attractive to serve.

This is my go-to recipe for entertaining without embarrassment . . . much like the respectable fellow you call upon to be your +1 for a family or business wedding Aside from a bit of basting it requires almost no labour, making it very savvy for the single host. Left-overs freeze well and reheat almost as deliciously as when they’re oven-fresh. The aromas emanating from your oven can eclipse the scent of a ‘relaxed’ housekeeping home.

Marbella — pronounced either as ma:’ beijə (Collins English Dictionary) or mahr-ve-lyah,-yah ( — is a seaside town on the Costa del Sol of southern Spain. Nestled between the Andalusian mountain range and the Mediterranean Sea, Marbella is the beach and yachting play ground for European rock stars, actors, writers, footballers and oil-rich Gulf state potentates. Fish are a mainstay of the Marbellian diet, but Chicken Marbella has New York City as its birthplace.

The Silver Palate was a tiny food shop and kitchen opened in 1977 (and closed in 1993) on the Upper West Side. Its original owners, Sheila Lukins and Julee Rosso, produced high-end take-out food catering to folks with haute taste and no cooking time or talent. They presented a lot of dishes from the Mediterranean and not the standard French food considered chi-chi at the time. Their popularity fuelled several cookbooks and speciality products, most famously The Silver Palate Cookbook [© 1982 by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins, Workman Publishing] in which this recipe first appeared.

The original recipe makes 10 – 12 servings. It is easy enough to halve or quarter, but if you have a freezer and roasting pan large enough to hold 8 chicken quarters . . . make at least half the recipe. You’ll be happy you did.

Arrange enough room to refrigerate the large dish of marinating chicken for 24 hours

You’ll need to start at least 24 hours before cooking. Marinating the chicken is the key to ensuring moist flesh on the roasted chicken. If you don’t have room in your refrigerator for the marinating chicken consider some ‘hill billy’ alternatives. Last week, outdoor temperatures in Ottawa didn’t rise above the standard temp for refrigeration. I placed my marinating chicken in a covered dish and set it in the trunk of my car parked in the driveway. If you live in a highrise building with a balcony (and no risk of visiting wildlife), put the marinating dish in a lidded cooler outside. If it will be in an area with a lot of direct sun-light, keep checking the actual temperature to avoid any risks from poor refrigeration.

Assemble ingredients for the marinade

The most difficult part of Chicken Marbella is assembling the ingredients! Don’t be put off by the capers and prunes. You will not believe how incredible they are when roasted in combination with all the other ingredients.

Here’s what you’ll need to make 5 – 6 servings, (but if you are having a crowd, simply double the amounts):

      2 x 2.5 lb [1.2 kg]       fryer chickens, quartered, or

      5 pounds [2.4kg]       chicken parts (Skin-on, bone-in)

      ½ head                          garlic, cloves peeled and finely puréed        
      1/8 cup/30mL            dried oregano
                                               Coarse salt & pepper to taste
      1/4 cup/62mL             red wine vinegar
      1/4 cup/62mL             extra-virgin olive oil
      ½ cup/125mL             pitted prunes
      1/4 cup/62mL             pitted green Spanish olives
       1/4 cup/62mL             Capers, with a bit of juice
       3                                       Bay leaves


      ½ cup/125mL            Brown sugar
      ½ cup/125mL            White wine    
      1/8 cup/30mL           Fresh Italian (flat) parsley or cilantro,                                                 chopped, for garnish  

Run chicken pieces under cold water, removing any extra flaps of skin or globs of fat. I also cut out the spines of the chickens simply to make more room in my roasting pan, but this is not necessary. Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Place into a dish or large zipper freezer bag(s). Add all ingredients save the brown sugar, white wine and fresh parsley. Stir well to combine seasonings and coat chicken pieces. Cover the dish or close the freezer bags and refrigerate for at least 24 hours. Once or twice during this time stir the chicken or flip and knead the freezer bag to equalize the marinade.

The chicken takes about an hour to roast. Preheat the oven to 350°F. You will need enough roasting/baking dishes to hold the chicken in a single layer. This often means I’m using two different pans. Scrape the marinade, olives, prunes and capers out the bowl (or bag) and spoon over the chicken.

Before baking, sprinkle with brown sugar and white wine.

Evenly sprinkle the ½ cup of brown sugar over the chicken and then pour ½ cup white wine over top of it all. Bake, uncovered, 50 – 60 minutes, basting every 15 minutes or so with the pan juices. A turkey baster work well for this job, but a large, long-handled spoon can work too.

You’ll know the chicken is cooked by piercing the thickest part (well away from bone) of a quarter with a poultry skewer, cake tester or thin knife blade. If the juice that runs out of the hole is clear yellow, and not pink,  it’s cooked properly.

A platter fit for a party!

Serve Chicken Marbella on a large, pretty platter arranging the olives and prunes around the poultry. Scrape the pan juices into a gravy boat or small pitcher, stir well and pass with the chicken. Provide fresh bread to mop up all the delicious juices.

I enjoy Chicken Marbella with a medium bodied red wine, particularly when I serve it with Crockpot Mixed Rice Pilaf. Something with plummy flavours would be an obviously nice match.


2 Responses to “Chicken Marbella — The Dependable Wedding Escort”

  1. Gillian Wallace November 18, 2012 at 6:24 pm #

    I can vouch for this. It’s delicious – especially if Susan cooks it for you!

    • Susan at Savvy Single Suppers November 18, 2012 at 11:11 pm #

      Thanks for the recommendation, Gillian. But trust me, this recipe is so good and easy any one can make this delicious recipe. That’s what makes it a Savvy Single Supper.

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