Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Sweetpea in the Kitchen - Chicken Marbella

I've started Sweetpea on some more serious cooking lessons at home with me as part of our "Cleaning House" program. This is her favorite chicken dish, so it's the first she wanted to learn how to make. It is super easy to make, can be frozen before cooking, doubles well, and all of the ingredients are my pantry staples so it's easy to throw together quickly. My kids have grown up eating prunes, olives, and capers so to them the flavors are quite familiar, it may take other children a bit of time to warm up to the new flavors. They can leave the prunes or olives on the side and just eat the chicken for a while until they get used to the flavor.

For each of our kids we introduced them to prunes(dried plums) before raisins (dried grapes) because though the flavors are similar, the prunes have beneficial side effects for when your baby enters the constipated toddler years. Believe me, you'll be glad your toddler likes prunes when they're 2 1/2 years old and potty training!

All my kids are olive maniacs, my baby M will eat half a can of black olives in a sitting, but he also likes green olives. Capers I have often served on fish with lemon juice, and I told them that my Abuelo German loved capers so they associate capers with a family story. Once they tried them, they liked the tart lemony taste and love knowing they are a flower bud!

Chicken Marbella
{I adapted this recipe significantly from a recipe in The Silver Palate Cookbook to make it easier to split and freeze after assembling, faster to cook, and easier for children to cut and eat.}


  • 3 lbs chicken thighs and breasts, cut into manageable pieces, all about 3 x 1 in.(or all of one or the other type)
  • 1 head of garlic, peeled and finely minced (or use the jarred kind if that's what you have in your pantry)
  • 1/4 cup dried oregano 
  • coarse salt(whatever you have on hand) and freshly ground black pepper to taste 
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil 
  • 1 cup pitted prunes (near raisins & dried apricots)
  • 1/2 cup pitted Spanish green olives 
  • 1/2 cup capers with a bit of juice (near pickles & relish)
  • 6 bay leaves (I've never missed them when I've omitted)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (original recipe called for 1 c. brown sugar - way too sweet for us)
  • 1 cup white wine (if you don't have any wine around, you can add a little water, broth, or even flat champagne)
  • 1/4 cup Italian parsley or cilantro, chopped (you can use dry if you don't have fresh, or could skip it entirely)

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. In a large bowl combine chicken pieces, garlic, oregano, pepper and coarse salt, vinegar, olive oil, prunes, olives, capers and juice, and bay leaves. 
  3. Cover and let marinate, refrigerated, overnight. (I have never remembered to do this, I usually let it marinate for an hour while I prepare side dishes like quinoa and a green vegetable}

{If 3 lbs chicken is too much for your family, this is a good time to put half into a freezer ziploc bag, label it, and freeze. When ready to prepare, defrost overnight in the fridge and then proceed to cook as normal. I always split a large 3 lb. batch so I always have a spare dinner in the freezer for us, or to give away to someone who needs a hot dinner. If you are giving it away for someone to cook themselves, give them 1/2c. brown sugar in a ziploc bag, 1 c. white wine in a disposable tupper, and chopped parsley for garnishing the top in a ziploc bag.}

Cooking Directions

  1. Arrange chicken in a single layer in a large, shallow casserole dish and spoon marinade over the top. 
  2. Sprinkle chicken pieces with brown sugar and pour white wine all around. 
  3. Bake for 20 minutes to 30 minutes, basting a couple of times with pan juices(if you can't, don't worry). Chicken is done when thigh pieces, pricked with a fork, yield clear yellow juice. This will depend on how big your cut chicken pieces are, if you left them rather large, you may need an extra 5 minutes. DO NOT OVERCOOK chicken, or it will be dry and tasteless. If you used all breast meat, cook less time and watch carefully. If you used all thigh meat, you can cook the full amount of time without too much danger of ending up with rubber chicken.
  4. Serve the chicken with quinoa or rice and a generous pour of the incredible pan juices. 
  5. Sprinkle fresh parsley over the top (if you have it.) 
  6. Add a green vegetable and a salad, and you have a gourmet meal that will impress your family and friends, but is easy enough for chicken night - which in our house is always Tuesday night.
Note: If you are pressed for time, you can cook at 400 F for less time, probably 15 to 20 minutes. I often cook it this fast. Just check the chicken so you don't overcook it.

Bon Apetit from my biggest Little Chef!

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