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A Taste of Spain at the Seder: How to Make Chicken Marbella

Chicken Marbella, once a staple of trendy dinner parties, is now a mainstay recipe for Passover’s festive meals

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(Elin Schoen Brockman)
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Just a few weeks ago, Florence Fabricant (who, incidentally, thought up the name “The Silver Palate,” according to the cookbook’s introduction) weighed in with a recipe, in the Dining section of the New York Times, for Chicken Tagine With Prunes and Olives—taking Marbella right back to Marrakesh.

Even Cook’s Illustrated has got in on the act. Its feature a few years ago “Updating Chicken Marbella” attempted to achieve “crispier skin and more balanced flavor,” via a typically meticulous series of experiments that finally resulted in jettisoning the marinade and coating the chicken with a prune-and-olive-based paste enhanced with anchovy and red pepper flakes.

Finally, there’s Roasted Chicken With Clementines and Arak in the recently published, best-selling Jerusalem: A Cookbook, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, whose impact on culinary culture today is reminiscent of Rosso’s and Lukins’ in the pre-foodie era. This highly aromatic new take on marinate-and-bake chicken just might prove to have the Marbella magic and staying power. In addition to the clementines (thinly sliced) and arak (or ouzo, or pernod), the marinade includes fresh orange and lemon juice, grain mustard, sliced fennel, fennel seeds, thyme leaves, and a bit of light-brown sugar.

But however good these more recent descendants of Chicken Marbella may be, at Passover I stick with the original from The Silver Palate Cookbook—but I use half the garlic, at least twice the prunes and olives, and sometimes skinless, boneless chicken parts instead of whole, quartered chickens. You can cut back on the brown sugar, too, and not ruin the dish. In fact, it’s almost impossible to ruin the dish—yet another of its attractions.

Rosso told me that she and Lukins liked serving Chicken Marbella with Nutted Wild Rice (also from The Silver Palate Cookbook)—eliminating the yellow raisins from that recipe, however. Which would work for a Sephardic Seder. Otherwise, it’s great with quinoa. And if you have any leftovers, just put them back in the refrigerator; they’re even better the next day.


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marjorie says:

i love this story! my mom was always a huge chicken marbella devotee. i don’t think i’ve had it anywhere but my childhood home, and i’ll always fondly associate it with my childhood.

I always serve a variant of this recipe from Silver Palate II at the High Holidays… Chicken with Figs… The variants being thyme, figs, apricots, black olives and Madeira, but same basic recipe/technique. everyone loves it!

Guest says:

whats the recipe?

whoffman says:

Recipe is at the top left of the article

whoffman says:

Recipe is at the top left of the article

I got a copy of The Silver Palate cookbook when I got married in 1985. I’ve been serving chicken Marbella ever since- it never fails to get raves. My kids just asked me to make the “chicken with the olives” for Seder and I will happily oblige. Again.

Biswa says:

thanks for posting

I just love chicken wings

Hope to see more posts related to

Holidays Spain

I make Chicken Marbella almost every year for Passover. It’s practically fool-proof. As mentioned, most of the prep is done the night before. The dish can stay in the oven, as needed, on “warm”. And everyone invariably loves it. I make it throughout the year as well. Now, I will eagerly branch out to Chicken Pandora and Chicken Marrakesh. Thank you for those suggestions, as well as your mouthwatering descriptions and thoughtful histories.

Like many here, I came of age with “The Silver Palate Cookbook”. Its flavors, ideas and techniques were revelatory and have aged quite well. As I particularly like Sheila Lukins’ subsequent “Around the World Cookbook” I wrote a salute to the books and to her here:

sedaliasteve says:

I had to try it out. All those contrasting flavors couldn’t work. They do! The overnight marinating gives a great flavor to the chicken and I assume the olive oil helps seal it. I pulled the skin off most of mine and they were still moist and tender. I think I prefer parsley Cilantro has a pretty strong flavor of its own and there is already a lot going with the spices, vinegar and capers.

evalunta says:

we also serve this at our Seder and also for Sukkot. Our family and friends go crazy for it.

Barbara Panken says:

What a wonderful recipe! I have made this dozens of times (maybe hundreds) since the cookbook was first published. And yes, I do serve it at my holiday meals. Thanks for the variations. They sound yummy

Sylvia Scher says:

Hi just laughed. I have been serving Marbella chicken for years for Passover along with salmon so everyone can eat. It has always been a favorite and I thought I was so original

Sharon says:

Since I have made Chicken Marbella for the past five years or so of Seders, thinking I was original, and just recently started loving the Jerusalem chicken mentioned, I decided to do Chicken Marakesh this year to change it up – similar in ease (marinate ahead, mostly done for the event). I’ve tripled it – meaning I have 12 lemons to zest. But the recipe you point to doesn’t say what to do with them! Elsewhere on the Internet I’ve seen that it’s a garnish at the end, which makes sense as it’s the last ingredient. Still – if I’m wrong, I’ll be sad. Definitely not going to put 12 lemons on my seder plate. :)

Lucy says:

I made this last year for the Seder and it was a big hit. This year I didn’t have to make a Seder and I am now marinating it in the fridge. I love it so much!

Nancy Saulson says:

My mother made this recipe for Seder for many years and I have done so since she passed in 2006. My extended family would never forgive me if I made any other chicken dish!!


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A Taste of Spain at the Seder: How to Make Chicken Marbella

Chicken Marbella, once a staple of trendy dinner parties, is now a mainstay recipe for Passover’s festive meals

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