A New Take on Chicken Marbella

For many new brides in the Eighties, like me, recipes from The Silver Palate Cookbook were among the most exotic we had ever prepared.

Chicken Marbella, a lovely chicken entrée that marinated all day long with oregano, bay leaves, capers, olives, and prunes was one of the most memorable and exotic of all. It could feed a crowd, be made ahead of time, be served hot, warm, or cold, and looked beautiful arranged on a platter, all of which made it an excellent dish for get-together meals.

With all this high praise, it may seem blasphemous to write that I have tweaked the recipe. Times have changed in thirty-five years. People are more keen on decreasing their sugar intake, so I’ve omitted the cupful of brown sugar. There are more options for buying various cuts of chicken now, bones in or out, so I buy chicken thighs instead of quartering fryers. There’s less time for food prep and shortcuts are often championed, so I marinate the meat for four hours instead of twenty-four. This marinade is so savory, I braise the chicken in it in a Dutch oven, instead of roasting the meat in a shallow baking pan. Yes, I’ve messed with the recipe, but hopefully, I’ve simplified the process so families might start enjoying this amazing dinner entrée more often instead of saving it for company.

Yield: 8-10 chicken thighs

The Marinade

In this recipe, the marinade ingredients are the stars. In fact, once lined up for a photo I had the urge to say, Ingredients, take a bow as if they were part of an orchestra. And thank you to cookbook authors, Julee Rosso and Shelia Lukins, who were revolutionary when it came to bringing unusual flavors together.

Ingredients
I head of garlic, cloves smashed, peeled and then chopped
6-7 fragrant bay leaves (buy new ones if they don’t smell woodsy)
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ cup dried oregano (¾ cup, if using fresh)
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ cup capers, drained (3½ ounces)
1¼ cups dried prunes  (7-8 ounces). Could add apricots or dates, instead.
½ cup green olives, drained (about 3½ ounces)
1 cup white wine (omit for Whole 30)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
4-5 pounds chicken thighs, bone-in or boneless, visible fat removed

Prepping Garlic Cloves
An easy way to prep garlic cloves is to put them in a bag, smash them with a meat mallet, and remove the skins. Rough chop afterward.

 

Instructions
Add all of the ingredients into the pot in which you will be cooking the chicken. I use a Dutch oven such as Les Creuset.

Add chicken, stir until all of the chicken pieces are well-coated with marinade. Cover and put in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours to marinate. The chicken can marinate for up to 30 hours. Toss ingredients occasionally. About an hour before you plan to cook, take the pot out of the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350º.

Cook for 45 minutes for boneless chicken or an hour for bone-in. About halfway through the cooking time, open the oven and stir the chicken. Remove pot from oven and let rest until time to serve.

I was all set to post my recipe with the modifications when … my husband said the only thing that could make this recipe better would be to use boneless thighs. Arghh! Seasoned cooks know how much flavor bones bring to a broth. I didn’t know if I could go that far in changing the recipe. I was reticent but curious, so I made two versions for dinner one night; one with boneless thighs and one with bone-in.  I invited family over for dinner and had them try both versions.

The verdict was tied until early the next morning when I received this vote from my friend, Corabel Shofner who was already on the road for a book tour of her fabulous YA (young adult) novel, Almost Paradise.

Bone-in won!

P.S. It was fun to tell the Millennials at the dinner table how popular the Silver Palate store in NYC was in the Seventies and Eighties as well as how popular the cookbooks were for my generation.

P.P.S. This is a fabulous novel for kids and adults. Lots of life lessons from the ever quick and witty, Corabel Shofner.

Related Posts: Other Fabulous Dinner Entrées
Yummy Shepherd’s Pie
Judy’s Mom’s Meatloaf
Easy Roasted Salmon with Olive Oil and Garlic Pepper
Brooks’s Pork Tenderloin with the Most Amazing Marinade
Pot Roast with Herbs and Root Vegetables
Rachelle’s Italian Sausage, Onions, and Peppers

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© 2014-2018 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

Pot Roast with Herbs and Root Vegetables

I’ve been on a pot roast making jag for the last two months.

When my children were young I made pot roast regularly — the very quick way. I put a chuck roast in a Crock-Pot, sprinkled it with onion soup mix, added water, potatoes, and carrots and let it cook all day. It was good enough, but apparently not memorable. I know this because once my children moved out, I forgot all about pot roasts.

In January, I visited the newly opened Bare Bones Butcher in The Nations in Nashville. I told Wesley Adams, one of the owners, that I wanted meat for a pot roast. He gave me a list of cuts that would work, and we settled on the classic chuck roast, cut from the shoulder of a cow. The meat at Bare Bones comes from locally raised livestock who graze on grasses (“pasture-fed”) until a few months before slaughter when grains are added to their diet to bulk them up (“grain-finished”).

When I got home, I realized how much I didn’t know about cuts of meat. I found this video online that was produced by Bon Appétit. It helped me feel better informed.

I brought the meat home, browsed through my cookbooks, came up with a cooking plan, and made my first pot roast in perhaps five years, sans onion soup mix. It was delicious!

 

To write a reproducible and tasty recipe, I had to make a lot more pot roasts. I bought subsequent chuck roasts at a nearby Kroger. I asked the butcher to show me a nice looking chuck roast, and he picked this one.

Meats used for pot roasts are generally more fibrous than other cuts and need to cook slowly, with low heat, and in a moist environment, to break down the connective tissue between the muscles. Cooked in this way, the meat comes out well done, has beautiful flavor, and fall-apart tenderness.

Take a look at these vintage charts to see the meat cuts of a cow.

Yield: Serves 6

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons olive oil
6-8 cloves garlic, smashed
1 large onion (12 ounces, about 2½ cups), rough chopped
4 pound chuck roast
salt and McCormick garlic pepper
1 cup dry red wine (omit for Whole30)
2 cups beef broth
5-8 stems thyme
3-5 stems rosemary
4-5 fragrant bay leaves
2½-pounds total of carrots, turnips, and gold potatoes
Add more salt to taste, if needed.

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 300º.

Wash the root vegetables. Peel the onion and roughly chop it. Take the garlic cloves, smash them with a meat mallet, and remove the skins.

Add olive oil to a heavy-bottomed, oven-proof pot. Warm the oil and add the onion and garlic. Sauté mixture for 10 minutes on medium heat until translucent and lightly browned. Add herbs, stir and sauté for one more minute. Use a slotted spoon to remove the onions, garlic, and herbs to a small bowl. Set aside.

While the onion is cooking, prep the meat. Rub approximately one teaspoon each of salt and garlic pepper on each side of the roast. If desired, tie the meat using four feet of cotton string. Set aside while you finish cooking the onion mixture.

Once you have removed the onion mixture from the pot, turn the heat up on the burner, put the exhaust fan on, and add the roast to the oil-coated pot. Brown the roast quickly on all sides for a total of about two minutes. Please note: in some of these pictures I tied the roast and in others I didn’t. Tying makes it easier to turn the roast over and to remove it from the pot.

Remove the roast from the pot, add wine, and deglaze the pan using a wooden spoon to dislodge the small pieces of meat and onion that may remain.

Add the beef broth and heat until liquids are hot. Add back the onion and herb mixture and the meat to the pot. Do not boil the meat in the broth. Cover the pot and cook in the oven for 2 hours.

Isn’t this beautiful?!

Meanwhile, prep the root vegetables.

If the vegetables are fresh, I wash and scrub them, without peeling. If the skin is thick, I peel them. Cut veggies into two-inch dice. The addition of unpeeled turnips bumps up the flavor. Set veggies aside.

When the roast has cooked for 2 hours, remove it from the oven. Turn it over (easier to do when it is tied) and add the root vegetables. Poke the vegetables into the liquid. Set timer for 1 hour.

After the roast has cooked for a total of 3 hours remove the pot from the oven. Taste the broth to see if it needs more salt. Let rest until ready to serve.

When ready to serve, remove meat to a cutting board. This next step is optional, but one I always do now that I’ve tried it: pour juice from the pot into a fat-separator and set aside while you trim and slice the roast.

I often trim and remove the visible chunks of fat before slicing.

Remove the herb stems from the vegetables in the pot.

Arrange the vegetables around the meat on the platter. Pour some of the defatted juice over the meat. Put the extra juice in a gravy bowl and serve on the side. The broth is good enough to sip!

Serve with a salad and cornbread, to sop up the lovely broth.

Other Good Options for Dinner:
Yummy Shepherd’s Pie
Judy’s Mom’s Meatloaf
Rachelle’s Italian Sausage, Onions, and Peppers 
Chicken Cacciatore or Hunter’s Chicken
Brooks’s Pork Tenderloin with the Most Amazing Marinade
Lemony Grilled Chicken Breast

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© 2014-2018 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

Foolproof Make-Ahead Gravy

I love nothing more in life than to sit around the dinner table with friends and family of all generations and enjoy a meal filled with storytelling, good food, and laughs. I particularly love Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve because of the traditions and feelings of anticipation and gratitude that go with them.

To get to the actual serving of the Thanksgiving dinner, I have to pass through a few cooking hurdles. For instance, I suffer from indecision everytime I cut into the turkey thigh to test for doneness. Are the juices truly running clear, or are they still ever so slightly pink?

And then there is the gravy. So much mystery there.

If it’s not lumps, it’s blandness. Making a velvety smooth, full-bodied gravy has eluded me for years. It is the reason why, in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the crazy hour before dinner, I nonchalantly ask, “Who wants to make the gravy?” as if it were an afterthought instead of a worry. Thankfully, there is always someone who volunteers, often, my husband Kelly and his mother.

This week, I was talking food with my good friend Karen Rolen, a joyful, spunky woman originally from Montgomery, Alabama. I asked her if she knew how to make gravy. She confidently and enthusiastically said, “Yes, I’ve been making it my whole life; where I come from, gravy is considered a BEVERAGE!”  Her written instructions arrived the next morning.

“Make a light brown roux* with equal parts butter and all-purpose flour. I probably use ¼ to ½ stick of butter.  Add hot turkey drippings and fonds** if you have them. Have two cups or so of heated chicken broth ready, and even if it’s good and homemade, have “Knorrs” or “Better Than Bullion” chicken base available for salt and seasoning later on. Slowly, stir broth into the roux and drippings and boil them on medium-high until you get the consistency you want. Season to taste with lots of ground black pepper and chicken bullion. It’s usually good enough to drink!”

*To learn what a roux is, check out Bruce’s Turkey and Sausage Gumbo and learn why you should save the turkey carcass and trimmings this year.

**Fond is French for “base” and means the bits and pieces of browned meat or vegetables left in a pan after roasting or frying.

My goal was to tweak Karen’s instructions to create a flavorful and dependable gravy you could make a few days or hours before the holiday dinner.

Yield: Makes three cups (this recipe is easily doubled or cut in half)

Ingredients: 

½ cup butter (1 stick)
½ cup all-purpose flour
4 cups (1 quart) heated boxed or homemade chicken broth
½ teaspoon ground pepper
¾ to 1½ squares of Knorr Chicken Bullion (for “seasoning to taste”)

Instructions:
Melt butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Using a whisk, stir in the flour.

Stir continuously over medium heat until the roux starts to change color, usually about three minutes, give or take a few seconds. The picture on the left was taken at 2½ minutes. The one on the right was taken at three.
 

Think of the roux’s darkening color as “toasting” the flour. The roux should be medium brown when done. This cooking of the flour is what gives gravy its depth of flavor and that desired taste of nuttiness. I promise, if this is your first time making a roux, you are going to feel very accomplished as a cook once you make this gravy.

As soon as the roux changes color, whisk in the broth to stop the roux from cooking any longer. Whisk and simmer for about five minutes until the gravy thickens.

Stick with it, don’t let the flour stick to the bottom of the pan. Also, do not adjust the seasonings until after the gravy has finished cooking because as the liquid evaporates the flavors will concentrate.

“Salt and Pepper to Taste”
Add the pepper first because it is easier to adjust. Next, instead of adding salt, Karen and I use Knorr’s bullion cubes for flavoring. The amount you need will depend on variables such as whether you use unsalted or salted butter and regular or low-sodium chicken broth.

To successfully “season to taste,” cut the Knorr bouillon cube into four quarters. Add one quarter at a time until you hit that magical point where the gravy suddenly tastes beautifully rich.

Notice how velvety smooth the gravy is.

Reheat the gravy in a saucepan just before serving. Feel free to add strained juices from the roasting pan, if desired.

If you wish to make your own chicken stock, consider these two posts to learn how: Chicken Stock from Rotisserie Chicken Bones and Rotisserie Chicken Soup, Revisited

My friend, Renée, whose family likes to fry their turkey every year, reminds me there are no drippings for gravy-making when deep frying a turkey, so plan accordingly.

Epilogue
Thanks to Karen Rolen for teaching me how to make gravy. I’ll think of her every Thanksgiving when I make it. Once I got Karen’s recipe adapted for this post, I took a sample of the gravy to my friends. They each tasted it and agreed it was indeed sippable! Thanks, Mary, Susie, Corabel, Jane, and Mary for being taste-testers.

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Remember to always check this website for updated versions of a recipe.  

© 2014-2018 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

Tomato Pie for a Crowd

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Tomato Pie, like Pimiento Cheese, is one of many fabulous culinary treasures of the South. Basic tomato pies combine the goodness of ripe tomatoes, with melted cheese and a crunchy pie crust. If you add to that bacon, onions, basil, and cheese in the crust, now you’re talking about a DELUXE and savory tomato pie.

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Like for pimiento cheese, there are many ways to make a tomato pie. Some have the cheese on the bottom, and the tomatoes on top and some have it reversed.

 

The key to making a great tomato pie, in fact, the only must-do after you gather colorful heirloom tomatoes (see Tomatoes: The Crown Jewels of the Summer Kitchen Garden)


is to core, slice, salt, and drain the tomatoes to divest them of their watery juice and thereby prevent a soupy, soggy, messy pie.

My favorite way to make tomato pie is with a crunchy cheese crust and tomatoes that are piled high and deep on top.

This pie’s problems are that there is never enough to go around, definitely not enough for seconds, and too many calories in the crust for an “everyday” meal. To fix these problems, I first tried to develop a larger pie (lasagna pan-sized) without a crust. However, I found the soft texture of the tomatoes and melted cheese demanded a crunchy crust, so I added the crust back, but only on the bottom, and loaded the dough with nutty parmesan cheese. My family loved it.

Yield: Makes one 9 x 13-inch pan, 10-12 servings

Pie Crust Ingredients

¼ cup cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
½ cup grated parmesan, somewhat packed
1 stick (½ cup) very cold or frozen butter, sliced into many pieces
4 tablespoons ice-cold water

Tomato Filling Ingredients

5 pounds ripe heirloom tomatoes, sliced ¼ inch thick
1 teaspoon sea salt
12 ounces unflavored bacon, about 12 strips
1 pound sweet onion (red or yellow), sliced thinly
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup homemade breadcrumbs
20 large or 30 medium-large leaves basil, chiffonade
½ cup mayonnaise (not the low-fat, sweet, or whipped varieties)
1 pound mozzarella cheese, shredded
½ cup parmesan cheese, shredded

Game Plan
I’m not going to lie about the amount of prep work needed for this recipe; this pie takes time. I streamlined the process by buying already shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheese and by using homemade breadcrumbs from a stash in the freezer. As a time-saver, you could forego the homemade cheese crust and use a single layer, pre-made roll of uncooked dough, reshaped to fit in a 9 x 13 pan. Or, you could make the cheese crust version the day before and store it uncooked in the fridge.

1) Prep Mise en Place for Pie Filling

Slice tomatoes about ⅓ inch thick. Place in a colander, add 1 teaspoon of salt and gently mix to distribute the salt. Place a weighted object on top of the tomatoes to help squeeze out the juice. I put a collection bowl under the colander to capture the juice and save for something else (like soup broth). Gently stir and squeeze the tomatoes every 5 or 10 minutes. Let them continue to drain while you finish the prep work.

 

Chop the bacon into two-inch pieces. Sauté until cooked, then drain the fat, and pat the bacon dry with paper towels.

 Thinly slice the onions. Salt very lightly with a pinch of salt and sauté in 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat for about 10-15 minutes.

 

If you don’t have a stash of homemade breadcrumbs​ in the freezer, make some now in the food processor.

Stack, roll and cut basil into thin ribbons.

 

2. Prep Mise en Place for Pie Crust

3. Make the Pie Crust
Add the flour, cornmeal, salt, and parmesan to a food processor with the regular blade attached. Pulse 2 or 3 times to blend. Add the butter slices and pulse 7 or 8 times until you can see little chunks of butter covered in flour and meal.

Add the chilled water and pulse a few more times until dough is just blended and forms pea-sized balls. I know this doesn’t look like it is blended enough, but as those little balls melt, they create steam that causes the puffiness in a flaky crust. We want them to melt in the oven and not in the food processor which is why we keep the dough cold and underworked.

Dump the crumbly dough onto a sheet of parchment paper. Fold the right side of the paper over the dough and roll it with a rolling-pin. Now fold the left third of the paper over the dough and roll again. Notice how you can still see the chunks of white butter in the dough in the third picture.

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Roll the dough out, between two sheets of parchment paper until it is at least 9 x 13 inches.  Test for proper size by laying the pan over the dough to see if it fits.

Remove the top sheet of parchment paper and flip the dough over into the baking pan. Center the dough by using the edges of the top sheet of parchment paper. Once centered, remove the top sheet of paper.

Trim the dough and use the trimmed pieces to patch the crust until it fits in the pan neatly. Use the tines of a fork to poke holes in the crust. Lots of holes. This allows air to escape while baking, so you don’t end up with a lot of air bubbles.

Preheat the oven 375º. While it heats, place the dough-lined pan in the fridge to chill for the 15-20 minutes it takes to heat the oven. This is a necessary chilling period.

Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. About 10 minutes into cooking, open the oven door and add a few more fork pricks into any bubbles that have formed in the crust. Allow crust to cool for 5-10 minutes before filling. Remember, the goal is not to have a soggy crust once we add the filling. Therefore, some cooling down is necessary.

4. Prepare the Tomato Pie Fillings
While the crust is cooking, remove the tomatoes from the colander and gently squeeze out the excess moisture with your hands. Pat the tomatoes dry with paper towels.

Combine the mayonnaise, cheeses, and basil in a mixing bowl. Stir in the onions (red or yellow) and bread crumbs.

5. Assemble and Bake the Pie
Here’s what you have now: tomatoes, cheese and onion mixture, bacon and cooked cheese pie crust.

Add the cheese filling to the cooled crust and then add the bacon.

Arrange the tomatoes over the top. Lightly drizzle a little olive oil over the tomatoes and some cracked pepper and sea salt.

Bake for 50-60 minutes. Pie is done when the filling is bubbling, and the tomatoes are lightly browned.

Dinner is served!

Related Tomato Posts
Fresh Marinara Sauce with Pasta
Gazpacho Galore
Roasted Ratatouille
Roasted Roma Tomatoes

Always check the website for the most current version of a recipe. Thanks!

© 2014-2017 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.