Simplified Chicken Marbella

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

Chicken Marbella, the memorable entrée that called for chicken marinated for 24 hours with flavor-packed ingredients like oregano, bay leaves, capers, olives, and prunes, was the most exotic of all. It could feed a crowd, be cooked in advance, served hot, warm, or cold, and looked beautiful arranged on a platter. It was the perfect company dish.

With all this high praise, it may seem blasphemous to write that I have tweaked this recipe. Times have changed in thirty-five years. People are keener about decreasing sugar intake. Thus I have omitted the cup of brown sugar. There are more options for buying specific cuts of chicken with bones in or out, skin on or off. I now use skinless chicken thighs instead of quartering a fryer. Nowadays, there is less time for food prep and shortcuts are championed, so I marinate the meat for four hours instead of twenty-four, and sometimes I don’t marinate it at all! This marinade is so savory, I cook the chicken in it using a Dutch oven instead of roasting the meat in a shallow baking pan.

Yes, I’ve messed with this recipe, but hopefully, I’ve simplified the process so people might start enjoying this delicious entrée more often instead of saving it for company.

Yield: 8-10 chicken thighs

The Marinade

In this recipe, the marinade is the star. In fact, once lined up for a photo, I had the urge to say, Ingredients, take a bow as if they were all part of an orchestra. I give thanks to cookbook authors, Julee Rosso and Shelia Lukins, who were revolutionary when it came to bringing uncommon flavors together.

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)
1½ cups dried prunes
½ cup green olives, drained (about 3½ ounces)
1 cup white wine
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
5 pounds chicken thighs, bone-in or boneless, skin and visible fat removed

Cooking Tip: 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.


Add all of the ingredients into an oven-proof pot. I use a Dutch oven such as this one from Les Creuset.

Add chicken, stir until chicken pieces are well-coated with marinade. Cover and put in the refrigerator for up to 30 hours tossing occasionally. About an hour before you plan to cook the chicken, remove from fridge and allow 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 to evenly coat it with juices and marinade. Remove 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, skinless thighs.” Arghh! Seasoned cooks know how much flavor bones bring to a broth. I was reticent but curious, so I made two versions for dinner one night, one with bones in and one with bones out. 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, in a text, from my friend, Corabel Shofner, who was already back on tour for her fabulous YA (young adult) novel, Almost Paradise.

Bone-in won by one vote. Know that when serving this dish to a crowd, when people are not seated at a table, it’s easier to eat boneless chicken than bone-in.

Dinner was served: Simplified Chicken Marbella over brown rice.

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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