Chicken Marbella

4 Jan

Chicken Marbella. A classic dish from the Silver Palate Cookbook, definitely one of my favorite go-to references for a good ol’ American meal.

Whether you are a chicken novice or a chicken expert, you simply cannot go wrong with Chicken Marbella. Marinated overnight (or for a few hours) with olives, prunes, capers, oregano, Bay leaves, garlic, olive oil, and red wine vinegar, the chicken soaks up all of the sweet, salty, herby flavors. And the best part? Right before you bake the chicken, you sprinkle with brown sugar and pour a dry white wine all over and around the bird. Bellissimo!

My mom is the queen of making dry chicken, so it will always be my goal to NOT make dry chicken. Whatever it takes, as long as the bird is under my watch, it must not be dry.

One trick that I learned to prevent drying out the chicken is to first pound out your breasts. This helps to tenderize the meat and also keeps the pieces the same width all around so they cook evenly. Another key to prevent your chicken from being dry is to find a good marinade and to marinate overnight. Your chicken and your marinade must get to know each other very well if you want them to cooperate.

I like to serve this chicken with a nice grain–rice, couscous, risotto, quinoa, barely…, some sort of roasted veggie assortment or sauteed spinach, and fresh bread (check out my challah bread!). This chicken also goes very well with my hearty grain soup with beans and greens.

I just love this marinade, and you can often spot me dipping my bread in the juices, sopping up as much of the sweet but savory and winey juices as I can! And substitutions are definitely a-okay here: think artichoke hearts instead of capers, figs instead of prunes, basil and parsley instead of oregano…I have also made a vegan/vegetarian version using tofu instead of chicken. With tofu, it is especially important to marinade overnight to bring out the best flavor possible.

Chicken Marbella
from the Silver Palate Cookbook


  • 2 chickens, 2 1/2 lbs each, quartered, bone-in, skin-on (If you are lazy like my fam., just buy the individual pieces: breasts, thighs, whatever you like. Or, you can be way cooler and more economical than me and butcher your chicken.)
  • 1/2 head of garlic, peeled and finely puréed (sometimes I just mince the garlic)
  • 2 Tbsp dried oregano
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup pitted prunes
  • 1/4 cup pitted Spanish green olives
  • 1/4 cup capers with a bit of juice
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 Tbsp fresh Italian parsley or cilantro, finely chopped


1 (Optional: Pound your chicken breasts to a nice even consistency) In a large bowl combine garlic, oregano, salt and pepper to taste, vinegar, olive oil, prunes, olives, capers with caper juice, and bay leaves. Add the chicken pieces and coat completely with the marinade. Cover and let marinate, refrigerated, several hours or overnight.

2 Preheat oven to 350°F.

3 Arrange chicken in a single layer in one or two large, shallow baking pans and spoon marinade over it evenly. Sprinkle chicken pieces with brown sugar and pour white wine around them.

4 Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, basting frequently with the pan juices (I check it about every 20 minutes). The chicken is done when thigh pieces, pricked with a fork at their thickest point, yield clear yellow juice (not pink).

5 With a slotted spoon, transfer chicken, prunes, olives, and capers to a serving platter. Add some of the pan juices and sprinkle generously with parsley or cilantro. Serve remaining juice in a gravy boat.

Serves 5.


One Response to “Chicken Marbella”


  1. Warm Winter Meals…my go-to’s « Figsinmybelly - December 11, 2011

    […] Chicken Marbella: This chicken never fails to please…makes the house smell so cozy! […]

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