May 26, 2011

nearly perfect chicken marbella

well, as the story goes, i was in a classic pickle. no idea what to make for dinner and no food in the pantry as i was dropping my son off at the ball field tuesday night at 5:15. so i asked him, what did he want for dinner. "victory," was his reply. "sounds good," i smiled. "what else?" i asked, as he reached into the back seat for his large sports bag filled with bats and gloves. the door slammed in reply, as he strode happily and with determination toward the dugout, casually waving to his arriving teammates. oh the simplicity and focus of 12 year olds. how i yearn for such clarity in my own life.

as per usual, i was on my own on this one. i drove to the store. it was getting late. the game started in 20 minutes. out of the mists of history, my own history and our collective history, sprang a sudden taste for chicken marbella. that marvelous dish invented in the 80s in nyc, by those amazing silver palate women. i have always loved it, the sweet, tart, savory, earthy unctuousness of this dish transcends. come to think of it, i have never seen it served without oohs of delight from guests. a friend of mine, a marvelous cook, often makes it, a popular favorite that it is. familiar, lovely, goes great with wine, and basically fool-proof.

now the recipe calls for marinating overnight. i needed dinner ready at 7:30 when the game was over, and i needed the dinner to practically cook itself in my absence. sounds impossible but no. not for marvelous, nearly perfect chicken marbella. marinating, and many other forms of elaborate preparation, it so often turns out, are overrated. impetuously, i picked up a package of organic skinless boneless breasts and another of skinless boneless thighs, a container of green olives, a jar of french prunes, a small jar of italian capers. boldly reinventing as i went. no lines. one bag of groceries. not too expensive. everything was going my way.

as i confidently breezed in the kitchen door, i started the rice. i placed the chicken in a large bowl. turned on the oven. set about flavoring the chicken with an odd array of this and that. pulled out my favorite bright green ceramic roasting dish. placed said chicken in pan. placed in oven. called out to teenage daughter studying for finals in the dining room. "if you smell anything burning, please turn this down." i left for the game.

turns out my son (known far more for his hitting and fielding than his pitching), was pitching a near perfect game. an 11-0 shut out. in one inning, he twirled only 3 pitches. the first two batters grounded out to him. the third batter to the third baseman. i have never seen a three-pitch inning before. the catcher did not even touch the ball once in that inning. i snapped lots of pictures. my husband and i were giddy. he went on to pitch as the local paper called it, "a complete game masterpiece." he faced only one batter more than the minimum. wow. what a night. as incredible as it was unexpected.

i kept my head and texted my daughter to pull the chicken out of the oven after 30 minutes. it was cooling on the stove as we returned home in victory. happily, chicken marbella is good, hot, warm, or room temperature. it really was spectacularly delicious. as we ate, my lovely daughter read us a wonderful short story she wrote, just returned with an A+. so we dined in the glow of their recent successes. my kids said it was an a+ no-hitter of a dinner. as it turned out, victory tasted a lot like chicken marbella. completely memorable, savory, and delicious.

chicken marbella
superfast homemade adaptation

1lb organic boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 lb organic boneless skinless chicken thighs
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
3/4 cup french prunes
1/4 cup capers and juice
1/2 cup green olives (i used an italian brand pitted and filled with tiny bits of lemon)
8 to 10 cloves of garlic, sliced
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons brown sugar sprinkled on top of chicken in the baking dish

preheat oven to 400 degrees F. i use a setting called "convection roast." mix chicken with the other ingredients and marinate while the oven is heating. when oven is fully heated, place the chicken mixture in a baking dish which holds them comfortably. sprinkle chicken pieces with sugar so they brown nicely. place in oven. return in 30 minutes. remove from oven. enjoy the amazing aroma. allow to cool for 10 minutes plus. enjoy with rice, cous cous or bread. a green salad would have been nice, next time.

lovingly adapted from silver palate cookbook. the traditional version uses herbs and white wine and red wine vinegar as well as chicken with bones and skin. the dish didn't suffer at all in this superfast adaptation, i swear. i think it's because without skin the chicken calls for less marinating, or none, in my case. they also use different quantities and proportions of most ingredients. chicken marbella is nothing if not adaptable.

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