In the 1980’s Chicken Marbella was all the rage. Here is a 2022 version, quicker, easier and lighter!
It’s 1982. I live in a two-bedroom apartment on the Seine with a view of the Eiffel Tower. At night the Bateaux Mouche (riverboats) light up the ceiling of my bedroom as they pass slowly down the river, wowing the tourists with highlighted Belle Epoque architecture. I shop in the outdoor market on the Rue de Passy, where there is a bakery filled with baguettes and croissants for our morning treats.
You would think I would be knee deep in French cooking.
And I was, except just then I was engrossed in a cookbook sent to me from home: The Silver Palette Cookbook. The Silver Palette was an Upper West Side gourmet shop in New York City which was immensely popular with New York’s bourgeoning foodie population. Its shelves (I am told) were stocked with the same ingredients I was exploring in Paris: fine olive oil, jambon, vinegars of all flavors, mustards and pesto among them.
Best known among their dishes was Chicken Marbella. Pieces of chicken were marinated in wine, olive oil and herbs along with prunes, olives and capers before being baked. It was a rich and unusual dish perfect for my generation which was just beginning to explore the ingredients of Mediterranean cooking.
Chicken Marbella was ubiquitous at dinner parties in Westchester and Fairfield Counties. It was featured in the New York Times Food and Restaurant Section.
It was a piece of home.
Why am I telling you this?
Because last night I made a dish of chicken and fresh figs from my garden which brought back to me the flavors of Chicken Marbella with a whole lot less work.
Aside from the figs, you will probably have all of the ingredients in your pantry.
Start with the chicken. I used thighs.
Brown them in a little olive oil and set them aside. There’s a trick to this. “Let the pan do the work.” In other words, if the skin is sticking when you try to turn it–it isn’t ready yet. Let it cook a little longer. The pan will release it when it is ready.
Add some butter to the pan. Let it bubble up and when it has subsided, sauté the diced onion and garlic until they are soft.
Toss in some red pepper and herbs, then deglaze the pan with wine and chicken stock, stirring up all the delicious bits off the bottom of the pan.
Finish the cooking in the oven. And you have a dinner to remember!
CHICKEN AND FRESH FIGS MARBELLA STYLE
- 2 lbs bone-in skin-on chicken
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 3 tbls butter
- ¼ c chopped red onion
- 4 cloves garlic chopped
- 1 tbsp oregano
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- ¼ c dry white wine
- ½ c chicken stock
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 8 fresh figs halved
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.
- Dry the chicken, season it with salt and pepper and sauté on both sides until the skin is browned. (3-4 minutes/side) Remove the chicken to a plate.
- Pour off most of the fat from the pan. Reduce the heat to low and add the butter. Let the butter bubble up and subside before adding the chopped onion and garlic. Sauté them, stirring occasionally until they are soft.
- Increase the heat to medium and stir in the oregano, red pepper flakes and salt and pepper to taste. Stir for one minute until you smell the herbs.
- Add the balsamic vinegar, stock, and wine. Scrap the bottom of the pan to release the browned chicken bits. Whisk in the mustard and brown sugar.
- Return the chicken to the pan and add the figs. Place in the preheated oven and cook for 2—30 minutes until the chicken is cooked.
- Finsh the chicken with a sprinkling of lemon juice.
- Serve with rice or bread to sop up the sauce.
Notes: No need to use your finest Balsamic Vinegar for this recipe. Any commerical variety will do.
When sauteing the chicken, "let the pan do the work". In other words, the pan will release the chicken when it is ready to be turned. If it sticks, let it brown for another minute or two.