Easiest Chicken for Company

Really, there is chicken under all the other ingredients in that baking dish!

This is the easiest way I can think of to entertain a bunch of people. This recipe is as flexible as a bungee cord, and can wrap itself around six or sixteen or more. Just multiply. I first tasted it close to twenty-five years ago at a holiday gathering at my friend Jean Anderson’s house, and thought it was wonderful, but didn’t ask for the recipe. Duh. Then later I ran into it in The Silver Palate Cookbook, the one people call “the white one,” by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins. I recognized the combination of ingredients in the recipe called Chicken Marbella.

If I make this just for our own dinner, or maybe two other people, then I like to use bone-in chicken, and prefer to cut up a small fryer. I do that because chicken is cheaper by the pound if you don’t buy already cut-up chicken, and with a stout pair of kitchen scissors, a chicken is easy to disassemble. For company, though, I usually acquire boneless chicken, and I really like thighs for this.

Also, the amount of capers might make you faint, but I look for larger jars which you can sometimes find in Reny’s or big box food sellers. Don’t buy the tiny jars with two tablespoons full in them. And I use salad olives, the kind that look like a truck ran over them, usually green with pimento bits.

The prunes disappear into the whole mess and leave a smooth, deep flavor. You have to serve it over sauce-absorbing rice or couscous. Leftovers are terrific at room temperature. When all is cooked and eaten, the goo left in the pan makes the most wonderful base for a rich soup. Lovely.

Start this dish the day before you plan to cook it so that the chicken has lots of time to marinate.

Chicken Marbella, Silver Palate Style

One small fryer cut up, or six boneless thighs

Generous sprinkle of red wine vinegar

Generous dribble of olive oil

1 clove of garlic, pureed

¼ cup or so of halved pitted prunes

¼ cup of green salad olives

3 tablespoons of capers with juice

2 bay leaves

2 tablespoons of dried oregano

Salt and pepper

¼ cup brown sugar

¼ cup of white wine

Generous handful flat-leafed parsley, chopped

Use a large bowl or a pyrex baking dish. Put the chicken, vinegar, olive oil, garlic, prunes, olives, capers, bay leaves, oregano,  and salt and pepper all together, tossing everything to make sure the chicken is well coated. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and arrange the chicken in one layer in the baking dish. Distribute the marinade ingredients over the chicken. Sprinkle on the brown sugar, and dribble the white wine over all. Bake for about fifty minutes, basting frequently, until the chicken juices run clear. Remove from the pan, and spoon some of the pan juices with the fruit and olives over the top, and sprinkle with parsley. Send the rest of the juices to the table in a gravy boat.

Makes four to six servings.

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About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.