Olives, Capers, and Prunes: Oh MY!

COOKING ADVENTURE # 88: Chicken Marbella

Chicken Marbella

The title of this Cooking Adventure might give you some idea as to my thoughts when diving into it. This is probably one of the strangest recipes that I’ve ever made with some of the most random ingredients. But, the person who gave me the recipe is a fantastic cook and it comes out of an old cookbook called “The Silver Palate” which is apparently quite renowned. And after making a wonderful Shepard’s Pie and eating the whole thing before I could get a picture of it, I figured this would be a worthy fill-in for my Cooking Adventure post…even a more adventurous candidate. This wasn’t easy. I had to face cooking and eating several foods that I wouldn’t eat at all normally and prepare the entire thing with a level of patience that I didn’t know I possessed. But…and I don’t say this often…it was all worth it in the end.

My co-worker at my day job came in one day with lunch that smelled absolutely phenomenal. He told me it was “Chicken Marbella” a recipe he’d been making for years from an old cookbook called “The Silver Palate Cookbook”. The Silver Palate was apparently an old restaurant in New York run by two ladies. It was so popular that they eventually came out with a book of all of their recipes. He gave me a photocopy of the recipe and told me to try it out. I promised I would. Had I not blindly accepted it instead of scrutinizing the directions, I probably wouldn’t have attempted the recipe so soon. I’m glad I promised before looking though. I would have missed out terribly if I hadn’t.

When I finally did check out the ingredients, my stomach did a series of back flips, each one bigger than the last. Olives? Blech. Capers? Cough, cough, blarg. Prunes? Ehhhwww. I couldn’t back out now. I forced myself to pick up each thing at the grocery store with the exception of capers. My co-worker gave me some of his so that I wouldn’t have to buy any…which was awesome. They cost a little bit more than I would have liked to have spent and odds were I wouldn’t be using them for anything else after. The day that I planned to make the marinade, I ended up staying up super duper late trying to deal with website issues and watching youtube…because let’s admit it, that’s what almost everyone does when they are bored and have internet access. At midnight, just as I was about to turn out the lights and hit the sack, I decided that I would make the marinade and get the chicken going in it. I knew that I didn’t have any dinner pre-made for the next night and that left me with very few options. So… back into the kitchen I went, my eyelids heavy with exhaustion.

First thing was first; I needed my big glass bowl to combine all of the ingredients which I scaled down for my recipe and didn’t actually measure (too late at night for me to give much care to this aspect). You can check out this website for the full list of ingredients and measurements. I added several cloves of garlic, the juice of which made the garlic husk flakes stick to my hands like super glue, oregano (sprinkled liberally), salt and pepper, red wine vinegar (I added WAY too much), and olive oil. Next up was the prunes. The recipe didn’t say whether I was supposed to cut them up or not. I added them whole. They languished like giant rocks in the middle of an oily lake filled with random jetsam. I added the olives next, not particularly thrilled that they were entering the fray with dried fruit. I have to wonder who thought of the idea to combine them… Next came the capers…

Sorry. I just can’t… Blarg. Anyway, I added those…and the caper…juice…ick… to the marinade and stirred everything together. The recipe says to wait to add the brown sugar and white wine but my friend usually adds in everything all at once. I followed his advice and added my crystallized brown sugar and a dousing of white wine to the marinade. Next, I opened the package of raw chicken, plopped each tender into the swamp of odds and ends and then pushed the bowl into the refrigerator, happy not to have to look at it for a whole 24 hours… or at least until the next night at six o’clock.

I pulled the bowl out then, grabbed my shallow baking pan and laid out all of the chicken tenders. After spooning some broth (there may have been a renegade olive that made it out) onto them, I pushed them into the oven at 350 and let them bake for ten minutes. They ended up baking for a half an hour but every ten minutes, I’d pull them out and douse them with a fresh bath of olive, caper, prune swamp sauce so that they would stay moist. Such an gross word. “Moist”. Ick.

Anyway, after the half an hour was up, I pulled my chicken tenders out and then put them on a plate with a fresh green salad. I added a couple prunes (because by the time the whole cooking adventure was over, I’d actually developed quite a liking to them–go figure!), and that blasted olive that I ended up discarding before I could accidentally consume it. My tastebuds were overwhelmed when I took my first bite. Such rich tangy flavors combined in that bowl over a 24 hour period gave the chicken one of the best flavors I’ve ever tasted. A long wait, strange ingredients, and lots of care while cooking can make magic it seems. My friend was right. It really is a fantastic recipe. He suggested serving it with rice or quinoa. The salad also gave the meal just what it needed though; a hint of green… It makes me think of spring and it’s eventual return to Midcoast Maine. We’re all sick of the snow here.

Next week on Cooking Adventures, I’m going to be tackling a wonderful and fruity dessert, the likes of which I’ve never attempted before: a crostata! And it’s using yet another random fruit that people don’t tend to use often: pluots (if I can find any…) Spiced Crostata with Pluots (orsomethingclosewhoknowsit’llbeasurprise)  is next week! Stay tuned!

~KSilva

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