a new year, and a recipe: chicken marbella

chicken marbella | the merry gourmet

I was this close to writing that I was starting the new year with writer’s block. I realized, just in the nick of time, that this would be a lie. I’ve been writing for the past two weeks, just not here.  Or anywhere else you can easily read it.

Instead, while I have been on “vacation” with my kids for the holiday break, I’ve been sneaking away, almost daily, for a few hours each day, to work on two separate manuscripts. I would so love to tell you that at least one of these manuscripts is the novel I’ve been dreaming of writing. Or that one is the memoir I feel I have stashed away in my head. But no. One is a book chapter for a textbook used by medical students. The other is an article about teaching professionalism in oncology.

The good news is that, yesterday, I finished the book chapter. And, as of 3:19 this afternoon, the professionalism article is finished.

Of course, finished is relative. As my good friend Olga – and any of you other published authors – knows too well, edits and revisions will soon follow.

But there has been writing.  Even though it’s not the creative version I crave, any writing is good. And I’m happy that 2014 started with writing. I don’t make resolutions, but if I did, tops on my list would be to write more: to write more words, and to write more often. And to write better, of course.

(Was that three resolutions I just made?)

I took a break from writing on New Year’s Eve to prepare to host a dinner party. In years past, we’ve gone out to dinner on December 31st, and while we like the chance to dress up and have a nice dinner out, we’ve grown tired of shelling out the inflated New Year’s Eve prices for a dinner we could easily prepare at home – and with nicer wine, to boot. So this year, we hosted dinner for some of our closest friends.

Leigh and Mike brought bruschetta to start – with prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, and fresh, diced tomatoes with basil – and I’m pretty sure I could have eaten that alone for dinner. For the salad course, Shireen and Steve brought a spinach salad with pecans and sliced Manchego cheese.  I’m not sure what she put in her salad dressing, but it completely worked. The main course was Chicken Marbella (recipe below), a dish I’ve only very recently tasted but fell in love with on first bite.  A saffron rice pilaf with dried currants and Deb’s stunning ratatouille rounded out the meal. Julia and Pete brought her famous flourless chocolate cake, and I supplemented dessert with a citrus tart.  There was an abundance of champagne, good chardonnay, and some luscious pinot noir.

Though I was up much later than usual that night – and paid for it the next day – I loved ringing in 2014 with some of my most favorite people. I really do believe that ushering in a new year this way – with a great meal shared with such wonderful friends – can only bode well for the year to come. Friendship, comfort, laughter, good food, great wine, and hugs all around: these are pretty fantastic ways to start a new year. Don’t you agree?

chicken marbella | the merry gourmet

Yield: Serves 10-12, or more.

Chicken Marbella

This is a great dish to serve for entertaining, as it can be served either hot or at room temperature, and it's easy to make ahead and simply reheat. I've adapted the original recipe from The Silver Palate cookbook just slightly by modifying some of the amounts of the marinade. I've also added a bit of red pepper flakes, and I decreased the amount of brown sugar by 1/4 cup.


1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup pitted prunes, each sliced in half
1/2 cup pitted Spanish green olives
2 tablespoons cup capers, drained
1 teaspoon caper juice
6 bay leaves
1 head of garlic, peeled and finely puréed
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 pinch red pepper flakes
4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed
3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley, finely chopped


Combine the olive oil, vinegar, prunes, olives, capers and juice, bay leaves, puréed garlic, oregano, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes in a large bowl. Add the chicken and stir to coat. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 6 hours or up to overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 ° F.

Arrange the chicken in a single layer in one or two large, shallow baking dishes and spoon the marinade over it evenly. Sprinkle the chicken pieces with the brown sugar and pour the white wine evenly around. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until the thigh pieces yield clear yellow (rather than pink) juice when pricked. If you use a meat thermometer (which I recommend), the chicken thighs should register 170°F and the chicken breast pieces should register 165°F.

Transfer the chicken, prunes, olives, and capers to a serving platter. Drizzle a few spoonfuls of the pan juices over, and sprinkle generously with the parsley. Pass the remaining pan juices in a sauceboat.

Note: To serve Chicken Marbella at room temperature, cool chicken in the cooking juices before transferring the pieces to a serving platter. If the chicken has been covered and refrigerated, reheat it in the juices, then allow it to come to room temperature before serving. Spoon some of the reserved juice over the chicken.

Slightly adapted from The Silver Palate Cookbook.

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9 Responses to “a new year, and a recipe: chicken marbella”

  1. 1
    Macaroni Mama — January 2, 2014 @ 9:17 pm

    The whole meal sounds delicious. Happy New Year, MJ and Sam!

  2. 2
    Sheri — January 2, 2014 @ 10:45 pm

    Happy new year!

    And how lucky are those that will be able to learn from you?

  3. 3
    Kathryn — January 3, 2014 @ 4:19 am

    Happy new year! It sounds like you found the perfect (and most delicious!) way to bring in the new year.

  4. 4
    olga — January 3, 2014 @ 9:06 am

    All I can say is (besides Happy New Year!) enjoy the calm before the edits are back in your hands 🙂 Also, I love that chicken marbella recipe – it’s so, so good. Which makes me wonder, where IS my Silver Palate book??

  5. 5
    Paula — January 3, 2014 @ 10:56 am

    You welcomed the New Year perfectly! From the fabulous menu to the wonderful friends to enjoy it with.

    Wishing you a wonderful year filled with more words and stories than you ever that possible to pen in 365 days.

    All the best to you and your family throughout 2014.

  6. 6
    Carlinne @Cook with 2 Chicks — January 3, 2014 @ 11:15 am

    Happy New Year! Our New Year’s Eve menu sounds delicious.

  7. 7
    Leigh — January 3, 2014 @ 3:32 pm

    The food and company were both fabulous, and I’m so glad to hear about the writing. Here’s to more dinners together (and maybe slightly less wine for me!) in the future. I’m looking forward to 2014!

  8. 8
    Teresa, foodonfifth — January 4, 2014 @ 6:09 pm

    Happy New Year! What a beautiful and delicious recipe to kick 2014 off with. I love all the ingredients in with the chicken. Lucky folks who got to eat this for your dinner party.

  9. 9
    Brooke @ Foodwoolf.com — January 5, 2014 @ 6:20 pm

    What an inspiration! Thank you for reminding me that writing is writing–whether or not it’s fancy fiction or food non-fiction. Sitting in the seat and hitting the keys is writing!

    Intention for 2014: MORE WRITING! MORE ART!

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