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
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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