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Falsetti: Bringing back a dinner party classic

Julie Falsetti
For The York Dispatch

As a child growing up during the Depression, my father claimed that one winter all his family had to eat was sweet potatoes. When hearing this, my aunt laughed and claimed it was just an excuse to have more mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving.

My childhood was the opposite. The table was always more than laden with food. Every dinner included at least four dishes, with meat, potatoes and plenty of fresh vegetables from the garden. Most meals were a variation on this theme — healthy and filling, but definitely bland and lacking in diversity. Hummus and guacamole would have sounded like Greek to my parents.

When I started my culinary ventures in my own kitchen, I had a yearning for something new and different. My fellow boomers also shared my longing. Enter “The Silver Palate Cookbook.”

Revelatory at the time, co-authors Sheila Lukins and Julee Rosso introduced readers to “exotic” ingredients such as balsamic vinegar and pancetta. They presented dishes that were fancy at the time but were straightforward and easy to prepare. Their most iconic dish was chicken marbella. With its sweet, tangy, briny, garlicky flavor, it became an instant dinner party classic.

The original chicken marbella recipe called for two chickens and was designed for a large group. The recipe below is a family-size adaptation. Although the actual preparation is elementary, the overnight marination is essential to the moistness of the finished dish. Done right, chicken marbella is unfailingly tender and juicy.

To make the preparation even easier, ask the butcher to cut up the chicken and remove the backbone. Save the remaining parts to make stock.

Chicken Marbella

1 chicken, 31/2 to 4 pounds, back removed and cut in 8 pieces

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 cup pitted prunes

1/4 cup pitted Spanish green olives

1/4 cup capers, with a bit of juice

3 bay leaves

5 cloves garlic, run through a garlic press or minced

1 tablespoon oregano

1 teaspoon salt

A few grindings of pepper

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/3 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

In a large bowl, combine the olive oil, vinegar, prunes, olives, capers and juice, bay leaves, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper. Add the chicken pieces and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Arrange the chicken pieces in a single layer in a shallow roasting pan. Spoon the marinade over evenly. Pour in the wine and sprinkle the chicken with the brown sugar.

Bake 50 to 60 minutes, basting two or three times with the pan juices after the first 30 minutes.

Transfer the chicken pieces to a warm serving platter along with the prunes, olives and capers; keep warm. Place the roasting pan over medium heat and bring the pan juices to a boil. Reduce to about 1 cup. Add the parsley and pour the sauce over the chicken.

— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section. Reach her with questions and comments at julietrulie11@gmail.com.