What you didn't know about Chicken Marbella

If you have aspirations of mastering classic recipes, and you haven't done so already, you'll probably want to start working your way through Sheila Lukins' The Silver Palate Cookbook. Not only was Lukins trained at Le Cordon Bleu, but she was a trailblazing entrepreneur and a cookbook author with four titles to her name. Lukins was also a pivotal figure in the burgeoning New York culinary world of the late 1970s and 1980s. As The New York Times wrote in her 2009 obituary, Lukins awakened taste buds and "helped usher in the new American cooking of the 1980s" with her Manhattan gourmet and prepared foods shop, the Silver Palate.

According to the website Slow Burning Passion, Lukins introduced her neighborhood to exotic delights such as Moroccan chicken and gazpacho soup. But her first dish ever sold at the Silver Palate, and one that became synonymous with the Silver Palate brand, was Chicken Marbella. Despite its Spanish name (it's named for an elite Spanish resort destination), the dish became a surprising staple of Passover dinners throughout America. Why? The original recipe was large enough to serve a crowd, and it can be made ahead of time, so it's perfect for a holidays. At a deeper level, it also aligned with the Jewish culinary tradition of combining fruit and meat. 

Chicken Marbella has the flavors of the Mediterranean

The hallmark of the The Silver Palate Cookbook was big, sophisticated, Mediterranean flavor, and Chicken Marbella, inspired by Lukins' travels to Spain and Morocco, is no exception (via Slow Burning Passion). The recipe combines the sweetness of dried plums and brown sugar with the briny saltiness of capers and green olives and, of course, the savoriness of dark chicken meat.

Though variations on Chicken Marbella have evolved since Lukins created the original, The Silver Palate's version is actually quite easy and starts with marinating chicken pieces such as legs and thighs in a marinade of red wine vinegar, olive oil, white wine, pitted prunes, Spanish green olives, capers, garlic, brown sugar, oregano, bay leaves, and Italian parsley (via Epicurious, which provides instructions for making Lukins' classic recipe). 

Marinating the chicken for 24 hours is the key to Chicken Marbella's tenderness. The dried plums, olives, and capers give Chicken Marbella such unique flavor, not to mention beautiful color, that it has been a favorite for years, notes Epicurious, which adds that it can be served hot or at room temperature and is even good picnic fare. A Family Feast adds that the recipe can be adapted using wingettes and drumettes and served as an appetizer. In the mood for some big Mediterranean flavor? Try your hand at beautiful Chicken Marbella.