Apparently I've been living under a rock because I've never heard of Chicken Marbella until now. I was talking to my coworker about how I needed to think of something to bring to a picnic that my friends and I were doing at Ravinia. She immediately told me to make Chicken Marbella. She described it as marinated chicken with prunes and olives and the best part was that it's pretty good served cold. I googled Chicken Marbella and realized, everyone and their mothers have tried this recipe and they all love it. It was also nice because you could marinate the chicken for days before cooking. I spent Sunday evening prepping the chicken and making the marinade and let is sit for two days. I cooked it the day before the day of the picnic and it turned out great.
Sheila Lukins and her co-author published "The Silver Palate Cookbook" in 1982 where she introduced home cooks to ingredients such as prunes and capers, which are staples now. I'm sure this recipe, back in the day, caused quite the stir. The original recipe calls for 4 whole chickens that you cut up, but I figured since it's a picnic, no one wants to be picking out bones, so I looked for a recipe with boneless, skinless chicken breast. I found the following adapted recipe. I made the following additional changes. I put in 1/8 cup of dried oregano. The original recipe calls for 1/4 cup but maybe if the chicken had the skin on, that might have been fine, but it looked like the chicken would just be coated in green, so I opted to put less in. I also added 1/2 cup more prunes and olives, just because I felt like it. :) It also calls for 1 cup of brown sugar to sprinkle on top of the chicken and it seemed a bit excessive to me, so I sprinkled a generous amount and I only ended up using 1/2 cup of brown sugar and it turned out fine.
adapted from The New American Cooking
6 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, halved
1 bulb garlic, finely chopped or puréed
1/8 cup dried oregano
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups pitted dried plums
1 cup pitted green olives, or a mix of olives such as Greek, Moroccan, or French
1/2 cup capers with about a tablespoon of their juice
6 bay leaves
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup white wine
finely chopped fresh Italian parsley or fresh cilantro as garnish
In a large bowl, add garlic, oregano, coarse salt and pepper, vinegar, olive oil, dried plums, olives, capers and juice, and bay leaves.
Add the chicken to the marinade and refrigerate, covered, ideally overnight, but at least for 2 hours. I put mine in a zip lock bag.
When you are ready to cook the chicken , preheat the oven to 350°F. Arrange the chicken in a single layer in 1 or 2 large, shallow baking pans and spoon the marinade over it evenly.
Sprinkle the chicken pieces with brown sugar and pour white wine around but not on them. Bake for about 40 minutes, basting every 10 minutes with the pan juices.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken, dried plums, olives, and capers to a serving platter. Moisten with a few spoonfuls of pan juices and sprinkle generously with the parsley or cilantro. Serve the remaining pan juices in a separate bowl.
Since I was taking this to a picnic, I just put my chicken with pan juices and all in my handy dandy tupperware.