AN ODE TO SPRING AND CHICKEN MARBELLA
A Spring Celebratory Supper
"Spring is when you feel like whistling every day."
--- Doug Larsen
There are so many rites of Spring to
celebrate ... so many firsts! The first daffodil, robin's return,
asparagus sprout, day when you can bask in the sun (for just moments),
that whiff of the first cut grass, it goes on and on. There are
graduations, new friendships, birthdays, and leaps of faith. All reasons
enough to cook and gather those you love around a table for a little
feasting and laughter over springtime classics.
In recent years, we've served Chicken Marbella
(mar-bay-ya) at Wickwood as an appetizer. This updated
version is made with boneless/skinless chicken breasts in bite sized
pieces and much more of the good stuff so that everyone gets their
fair share. We bake it covered so that the chicken doesn't dry out and
then flash it under the broiler to brown it just a bit. The leftovers,
re-heated with their juices separately reduced, are wonderful over arugula
as a lunch or dinner entrée salad. And, thus the secret of why cooking
is so intriguing to me ... it satisfies an insatiable
The key to this dish is the overnight marination
which is essential to its moistness, especially when you're using only
chicken breasts. And, the chicken keeps and improves further if you
marinate it longer. It's a great dish for entertaining, a week night
dinner, or a picnic. It stars in any company it keeps, but
especially Nutted Wild Rice and Carrot Cake Cupcakes. Serves 8.
• 6 boneless/skinless chicken breasts
(or if you can find with skin-on, so much the better)
• 20 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely
• ¼ cup dried oregano
• Coarse salt and freshly ground black
pepper to taste
• 1 cup red wine vinegar
• 1 cup olive oil, good quality
• 2 cups pitted prunes
• 1¾ cup pitted Spanish green olives
• 1 cup capers with a bit of juice
• 6 bay leaves
• 1½ cup light brown sugar
• 2 cups white wine
• ½ cup fresh Italian parsley, finely
1. In a large bowl combine chicken pieces, garlic, oregano, pepper
, salt, vinegar, olive oil, prunes, olives, capers and juice and
bay leaves. Cover and let marinate, refrigerated, overnight.
2. Pre-heat oven to 350°F.
3. Arrange chicken in a single layer in two large shallow baking
pans (do not crowd or the chicken will steam), and distribute the
marinade over it evenly. Sprinkle chicken pieces with brown sugar
and pour white wine around them. Cover the pans tightly with foil.
4. Bake for 30-35 minutes, basting every ten minutes with the pan
juices. Chicken is done when juices yielded are clear, not pink.
Pre-heat the broiler well and baste the chicken again. Place the
pans of chicken about 2" under it for 3-4 minutes until the
chicken becomes just slightly browned. Do not leave it long, as it
will dry the chicken out. Serve over rice or greens and pass the
sauces on the side.
In The Beginning ...
This recipe has become a classic ever since
it was first created by the late Sheila Lukins and I while we were
cooking for a dinner party in the Spring of 1976, This was long before
our partnership, The Silver Palate Shop, or Cookbooks were ever even
It was all serendipity.
Sheila was cooking for my "on again off again" beau” late one
afternoon when I suddenly met her for the first time in his kitchen
(obviously he and I were unexpectedly “on again”) as she was beginning
to cook a dinner for 8 from "found ingredients" out of cupboards I was
all too familiar with. She was a caterer who specialized in helping
out bachelors. Sheil was their secret ingredient.
Once I understood what was going on, I
pitched in as time was growing short and guests would be arriving any
minute. We frantically searched for ingredients and immediately bonded
over our shared loves of food and travel amidst mountains of almost
We'd both recently
visited Marrakech and Andalusia and luckily the boring chicken
quarters we were facing became inspired by both of those wonderful
cuisines. We were desperate. We began to transform them into treasures
dotted with flavor gems ... green Spanish olives, capers, prunes and
oregano until they began to sparkle. We name it Chicken Marbella after
the magnificent Club Marbella, a place we both loved.
The dish won raves that night and has continued
to do so ever since. It is a combination of slightly sweet and tart
accenting magnified flavors that titillate the palates of just about
everyone. It seems to always be the star attraction at a dinner.
"No winter lasts forever. No
spring skips its turn." --- Hal Borland
A Medley of Grains with Herbs,
Nuts and Raisins
This dish began as Nutted Wild Rice and has
become more interesting over the years as we enjoy an ever expanding
array of grains in our
cooking. You begin by cooking two cups of your favorite combination of rices be it wild or brown rice, basmati, wild pecan, wheat pilaf,
quinoa, black or mahogany Japonica. The more the merrier. Then you add
dazzling flavors by the handfuls and magic begins to happen. We serve
this warm, or at room temp, in every season of the year. It’s
addictive and adapts well. Upon a whim we’ve been known to add
generous dashes of Grand Marnier, Calvados , Poire William, Brandy,
Smokey Scotch or dry sherry for a bold accent. Serves 8.
• 2 cups golden raisins, currants, or
tart dried cherries
• 1 cup fresh orange juice (first zest
the oranges and reserve zest)
• 2 cups assorted rices cooked al
dente by package directions
• 4-5 cups of Chicken broth
• ¼ cup unsalted butter
• ¼ cup best quality olive oil
• ½ cup Grand Marnier (optional) or
• 2 cups pecan halves, toasted and
• 1 cup chopped scallions (green part
• 1 cup fresh mint, chopped finely
• Sea salt and freshly ground pepper,
1. Macerate the raisins in the orange juice while you cook the
rices in the broth and butter according to the instructions on the
packages. Be sure to cook them separately and do not overcook.
2. When the rices are done, place them in a large bowl and mix.
Drizzle with some of the orange juice, mixing well, and several
tablespoons of the olive oil. Then add the raisins, the liquor if you
wish, pecans, scallions and mint, seasoning well with salt and pepper.
Taste. Add additions of whichever you like. Note: Occasionally we’ve
added fresh apples, pears, tangerines to this, or used it as a base
for a duck, smoked chicken, dried sausage, or sautéed shrimp salad.
The variations are endless.
"The world is mud-luscious and
puddle wonderful." --- e.e. cummings
Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Cream
This particular Carrot Cake recipe is a
treasure. It was originally Sheila's Mother, Berta's, beloved favorite
and over the years we’ve adapted it a bit. Cupcakes are a lighter, yet
still very moist, choice to a two- layer cake. Now, we top them with a
less sweetened Cream Cheese Cream and they taste more modern. We seem
to never tire of this classic and these cupcakes are always on hand
for our birthdays. Makes 22-24.
• 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
• 3 cups granulated sugar
• 1 teaspoon
• 1 tablespoon baking soda
• 1 tablespoon cinnamon
• 1½ cups corn oil
• 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
• 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
• ¾ cup drained crushed pineapple
• 1½ cups pureed cooked carrots
• 1½ cups shredded coconut
• 1½ cups walnuts, chopped
• 24 ounces of cream cheese, softened
• ¾ cup Confectioner's sugar
• 3 cups Heavy Cream
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Place paper cup cake liners in a muffin pan.
2. Sift the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and cinnamon into a bowl.
Add the oil, eggs and vanilla. Mix well by hand. Fold in the
pineapple, carrots, coconut and walnuts.
3. Pour the batter into the cup cake liners, set into a muffin tin,
filling almost to the top. Bake for 50 minutes until a toothpick when
inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool slightly.
4. Meanwhile, in a medium sized bowl cream together the cream cheese and
confectioner's sugar, making sure there are no lumps. Then, gradually
add the heavy cream until smooth. Dollop generously over cupcakes as
you serve them. Yum. Refrigerate any extra.
"Spring is Nature's
way of saying 'Let's Party!'" --- Robin Williams
WE HAVE SPRING FEVER
little Madness in the Spring is wholesome." --- Emily Dickenson
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