I live alone–and for the most part, I cook alone. I started this blog as a way to make that experience more social—to share the things that I like to make, and to get ideas about what to make from people I like. I’ve only been blogging for a few months, but the project has already been, I think, quite a success. And because the goal is about community, I’d love to have other people contribute their own recipes and stories.

This inaugural guest post—I hope there will be many more—is from my friend Cynthia, a devotee of Homesick Texan who makes some astounding enchiladas. I have a feeling her chicken marbella will blow my mind as well.

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Growing up the child of new immigrants, I had the privilege of embracing aspects of both American and Chinese home cooking: promptly at six, my mother would feed me whole steamed fish and roast duck, but also broccoli with melted Kraft singles and cornbread stuffing.  Although my mother preferred Chinese cooking in general, we often explored and adapted American recipes together.

However, my exposure to “American” home cooking has been spotty, and I’m continually discovering new recipes that my friends’ parents have (apparently) been making for years.  Which brings me to the topic of this post: I was invited over for dinner by a coworker the other week, who served up a delightful Monday night chicken dinner.  The chicken itself was incredibly tender and flavorful, and was served with a rich sauce along with capers, olives, and prunes.

When I asked for the recipe, I was told that it was Chicken Marbella from the (again, apparently) famed Silver Palate cookbook.  After doing a little research and trying the dish out myself, I’m more in love with the recipe than ever.  The cookbook was written by and for busy working women, demystifying gourmet food and unfamiliar ingredients at a time when young women were increasingly more interested in pursuing careers than perfecting domesticity. (My own mother certainly fit this bill.)  And this dish has become a staple in many American kitchens—and dinner parties—for the past two decades.

The recipe is incredibly simple and good for a weeknight meal if you plan ahead. I took the original recipe and scaled it down to yield about 4-5 servings since I don’t really have twelve people to feed.  According to the original recipe, the dish can be served hot or cold, and makes for excellent leftovers.  I concur.

Chicken Marbella
Adapted from the Silver Palate cookbook

3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup pitted prunes
8 small green olives
2 tablespoons capers, with a little liquid
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon dried oregano
salt and pepper
2.5 pounds chicken thighs and drumsticks
1/4 cup packed brown sugar (or less to taste)
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper and place in shallow container or bowl for marinating.  Combine garlic, prunes, olives, capers, olive oil, red wine vinegar, bay leaves, and oregano and pour over chicken.  Marinate chicken overnight.

When ready to cook, place chicken along with the marinade* in a shallow baking dish.  Sprinkle the chicken with brown sugar and add wine around the chicken pieces.  Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour, spooning sauce over chicken pieces every so often as the chicken begins to brown.   Chicken is done if the juices run clear when pierced with a fork.  Garnish with parsley.

Goes well with polenta and a green salad.

*I’ve been scared into believing that you shouldn’t cook with marinade you’ve used with raw meat.  But hundreds of home cooks across America can’t be wrong about reusing the marinade in this dish, right?