A photo of chicken marbella in a pan

Timeless Chicken Marbella

Good friends. Good conversation. Good food. Good libations. No cell phones at the table. I love dinner parties! How about you?

Setting the table with the gleaming silver passed down from my mom, beautiful linens, crystal glasses, flowers, candles and choosing the perfect background music is where the fun starts.

The menu prep mostly seems to fall into place almost like magic. I learned to throw caution to the wind when my mom would advise, “never try out a recipe for the first time when you’re having a party.”

In ancient Rome, a dinner party, also called a conviva, was an opportunity for emperors and senators to discuss issues of the day. Singing and poetry reading were popular at London dinner parties from the 1870s to early 1900s. The English sent invitations requiring RSVPs, dressed formally and with food ranging from extravagant displays to simple fare.

Reflecting on past menus, one of the best is The Silver Palate’s Chicken Marbella. I first tasted it at the long gone New York City location at the corner of Columbus Avenue and West 73rd Street. It was a tiny gourmet food shop, about 125-square-feet, owned by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins. Since it was so small, Lukins cooked a lot of the dishes in her home kitchen in The Dakota building. Neighbor John Lennon was known to sometimes help her carry items to the shop.

They’re credited with creating and popularizing upscale prepared foods that became known as “carryout cuisine.” In 1982, the first printing of “The Silver Palate Cookbook” set a record selling 250,000 copies in the first year.

Let me know what’s on the menu for your dinner party. Wishing you joy in the kitchen,

Chicken Marbella
Serves 10-12 but can also be cut in half

4 chickens, 2 ½ lbs. each, quartered
1 garlic head, peeled and finely puréed
¼ cup dried oregano
Coarse sea salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
½ cup red wine vinegar
½ cup olive oil
1 cup pitted prunes
½ cup pitted Spanish green olives
½ cup capers with a bit of juice
6 bay leaves
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup white wine
¼ cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

1. In a large bowl, combine chicken quarters, garlic, oregano, pepper, salt, vinegar, olive oil, prunes, olives, capers and juice, and bay leaves. Cover and marinate, refrigerated overnight.
2. Heat oven to 350°F.
3. Arrange chicken in a single layer in one or two large shallow baking pans and spoon marinate over it evenly. Sprinkle chicken pieces with brown sugar and put wine around them.
4. Bake 50-60 minutes, basting frequently with pan juices. Chicken is done when thigh pieces priced with a fork at their thickest, yield clear yellow (rather than pink) juice.
5. With a slotted spoon, transfer chicken, prunes, olives and capers to a serving platter. Moisten with a few spoonfuls of pan juices and sprinkle generously with parsley. Pass remaining pan juices in a sauceboat.
6. To serve cold, cool to room temperature in cooking juices before transferring to a serving platter. If chicken has been covered and refrigerated, allow it to return to room temperature before serving. Spoon some of the reserved juice over chicken.

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