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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13 Responses to “comfort food: white bean and sausage stew”

  1. 1
    Liz the Chef — November 22, 2010 @ 9:42 pm

    I cut out Melissa’s recipe too and it is “buried” on my fridge door, as so many wonderful-sounding recipes stack up. You have inspired me to try it!

  2. 2
    Bob — November 22, 2010 @ 10:17 pm

    We love it here…made it again tonight with enough left to last for several more meals. You should think about trying your hand at a bread bowl…very easy and a great touch.

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  4. 3
    Gail — November 23, 2010 @ 9:28 am

    I, too, read the recipe and column and immediately added it to my recipe file. Glad it passed your kids’ test. I can’t wait to make it!

  5. 4
    Kath — November 23, 2010 @ 9:47 am

    I usually read the New York Times food articles but missed this one. Your soup looks fantastic! Sausage and beans with cornbread sounds like the perfect cold weather meal. (It snowed and is 21 degrees in Seattle. )

  6. 5
    Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction — November 23, 2010 @ 10:29 am

    I love that chicken sausage… One of my favorites! I always struggle with what to make in the days leading up to a holiday. This sounds like the perfect solution.

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — November 23rd, 2010 @ 9:36 pm

      Jen – They really do make the best chicken sausage. I’m always substituting it in place of regular sausage.

  7. 6
    Dan @ Casual Kitchen — November 23, 2010 @ 2:22 pm

    This is my first time visiting your site and I’m blown away by the simple and delicious elegance of this recipe! Thank you for sharing. I’m looking forward to sharing this with my readers.

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — November 23rd, 2010 @ 9:35 pm

      Welcome, Dan. I’m glad you’re here!

  8. 7
    Lael Hazan @educatedpalate — November 23, 2010 @ 2:40 pm

    Great post, love the soup. I have beans soaking on my counter right now!

  9. 8
    Denice Olig — December 16, 2010 @ 11:34 pm

    I made this and i love it.
    No cumin. Not really mad about it. An odd spice really, in my opinion.
    Turned out fabulous. Warm, hearty,just what I needed for these past few cold days.
    Thanks for the inspiration MJ.

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — December 19th, 2010 @ 9:22 am

      Denice – Yay! I’m so happy. You know, I feel the same way about cumin. I’m okay with it in small doses, but it’s not a spice I just love.

  10. 9
    Blaiser — January 7, 2011 @ 8:12 pm

    This is maybe the first New York Times recipes that I cut out and saved for a rainy day. Snowy days are more what’s cooking in the heart these days — we got our first dusting today of perhaps three inches after the 20″ deluge in the week between Christmas and New Years. (suburban Jersey)

    I had some organic pinto beans in the larder and went with those, along with sweet sausage from Trader Joe’s — but burned the hell out of the tomato paste/cumin/sausage drippings part — just wasn’t hovering when I should have been hovering. Anyway, put in the water and got it simmering and went to pick up my kid from school — library, errand, and back to the apartment — picture perfect wet snow on evergreens outside — a real Hallmark moment — and opening the door — the aroma was unbelievable. The kid (10) went bananas, but it took another few hours to get the pinto beans where we wanted them — the liquid meanwhile became a rich, rich, brown — probably due in some part to the initial burning of the spice mixture. Total cooking time 4 hours plus, but I’m telling you — walking into that smell after coming in from the snow…. priceless.

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