Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Outrageous Chicken

Let's have an honest moment here.  Up until this point, this little blog of mine has been an extremely friendly place for my vegetarian friends.  This is more of a happy coincidence than anything else, but it does reveal a little bit about my style of cooking.  I love veggies, and there are literally countless ways to prepare them.  My parents never had to force me to eat my Brussels sprouts, or finish my broccoli.  In fact, my brother and sister and I were always great about eating our vegetables, and I think that's a huge tribute to having two parents who were wonderful cooks and realized the importance feeding a well-balanced diet to their children.  I'm so happy to see that both my brother and my sister recognize the importance of this with their own children.  My family is a family of GOOD EATERS.  Those of you who know me well know that my love for good food and cooking is no accident.

That said, to my vegetarian friends:  I love you.  But you can stop reading now.

Because today, I'm sharing one of the best chicken dishes I've ever tasted.  While I love my veggies, I also love a beautiful, juicy, tender piece of meat.  Ironically, this dish was discovered on a quest to prepare a meat dish for my vegetarian friend Rebecca's wedding.  Ha!  The wedding was a potluck feast, and they requested some omnivore-friendly dishes for the spread.  I didn't want to make anything just ordinary, so as I often do I polled my friends to see if they had any ideas.  Enter my friend Heather, who is a fabulous cook and handed me this gem of a recipe.  It's actually a very well known recipe called Chicken Marbella from The Silver Palate Cookbook, but she told me she just calls it "Outrageous Chicken."  And she's right, because it's OUTRAGEOUS. 

After the guests had feasted at the wedding, I was in line to refill my glass of wine and started up a conversation with a woman next to me.  (As my friend Laura says, I've never met a stranger!)  When I introduced myself, her face suddenly changed and she said to me, "Are you the Heidi that brought that chicken dish?  Oh my God, that was delicious!  Can I have the recipe?"  I think I started floating a bit after she said that. (Although no one else will claim I was "floating" 3 hours later while working the dance floor to "Footloose" after several glasses of wine, but that's beside the point...) 

For Rebecca's wedding, I prepared the dish crockpot style.  It turned out delicious, but it's really best baked in the oven so that the skin gets beautifully golden and crispy.  I loved this dish so much that I made it just a few weeks later at my friend Mera's baby shower.  Needless to say, they loved it too.  In fact, so many requested the recipe at the shower that I promised to post it soon.  The wait is over!

The shower spread screamed fall.

When I read the ingredients for the marinade, I had a very good feeling about this recipe.  Some of you might think that it sounds a bit strange, but you'll just have to trust me on this one because I don't think there's a person on this planet who has tried this chicken and not liked it.  Consisting of red wine vinegar, olive oil, garlic, capers, dried oregano, bay leaves, green olives, and prunes, it sounds a little...weird.  But weird in a delicious way!

The original recipe requires you to quarter 4 whole chickens at 2 1/2 pounds each, but that's too much work for me.  Instead, I did what my friend Heather suggested and used 10 pounds of bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs-- my favorite piece of the bird.  You could use any part of the chicken you like, and I think boneless, skinless chicken will work too.  But my preference is always bone-in with skin, because that's where chicken derives so much of its flavor.  The original recipe also calls for whole olives and prunes, but my olives and prunes were really big, so I halved both of them.  You don't have to, especially if you're short on time.  You could also get fancy with the olives, but I'd previously purchased a double-pack of Spanish olives stuffed with pimientos from my beloved warehouse store (I could write an entire post on why it's a terrible idea for a single girl to use Costco as her main grocery store).  I just sliced each olive in half and 86'd the pimiento.  Easy peasy.

(Note that this makes a HUGE amount of chicken, so unless you're preparing this meal for a large party, you can easily devide the recipe in half.)

What I love about this dish is its utter simplicity.  Most of the work is done in assembling the marinade.  Once you add the chicken to the marinade, cover it and let it marinate overnight. 

(I forgot to take a picture of the big dish of chicken marinating, but this is the two chicken thighs I stashed away for my dinner the next night!)

The next day, place the chicken and the marinade in two 9 x 13 inch baking dishes.  Pour a 1/2 cup of white wine over each of the dishes, and sprinkle the top of the chicken with brown sugar.  The original recipe requires you to place the chicken and the marinade on a shallow baking pan (think large cookie tray), and bast the chicken often with the juices.  But I've found you get a similar result, without all of the basting, by using two 9  x 13 inch baking dishes.  The chicken is immersed in more of the liquid, which eliminates the need for basting, but the skin is still exposed to maximize crispy deliciousness.

If this doesn't look good to you, your eyes are broken.

You really can't go wrong with this chicken.  Tangy, sweet, and fall-off-the-bone tender.  Plus, it's a beautiful dish.  Your friends will think you're an amazing cook, and they don't need to know how easy it was (unless they ask for the recipe, and they will!)  Serve it with any good starch to soak up the beautiful juices- a lovely pile of buttery mashed potatoes or a pillow of soft, creamy polenta would be perfect.  But it's also great just on its own.

Outrageous Chicken, a.k.a. Chicken Marbella

10 lb. chicken pieces, bone-in and skin-on (or 4 chickens, 2 ½ lbs. each, quartered)
cloves from 1 head of garlic, peeled and finely pureed
1/4 c. dried oregano
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 c. red wine vinegar
1/2 c. olive oil
1 c. pitted prunes, halved
1/2 c. pitted Spanish green olives, halved
1/2 c. capers with a little juice
6 bay leaves
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. white wine
1/4 c. chopped parsley (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine pureed garlic, oregano, vinegar, olive oil, prunes, olives, capers and juice, bay leaves, and kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.  Add chicken and mix well (you may need to divide the mixture into two bowls if you make the entire recipe). Cover and let marinate in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day, place the chicken in a single layer in two 9x13 inch baking dishes and spoon marinade evenly over all pieces. Sprinkle the chicken with brown sugar and pour white wine around them.

Bake the chicken for about one hour. The chicken is done when its juices run yellow (as opposed to pink). Sprinkle with parsley before serving.
(This makes enough chicken for a party, so note that this recipe can easily be divided in half!)

Enjoy! xo H


Heidi said...

Hi folks- a few friends are having problems posting comments. It's a constant Blogger issue, so I'm going to check into it and hopefully have it up and running soon!

Tara said...

I am inclined to make this for Christmas dinner! I'm not that fond of capers, though... could I just omit them, and maybe toss in a few more olives + olive juice instead?

Tara said...

Ooh also, do you think it would be crazy to use Kalamata olives instead of green??

Heidi said...

This dish lends itself to some creativity and substitutions. As long as you have the base ingredients and make sure to marinate it overnight, I think it's totally fine to substitute kalamata for green olives. Although I like the color contrast between the green olives and the prunes. If you don't like capers, go ahead and leave them out. They do add a briney-ness to the dish that's hard to replicate, but it will still taste delicious without them!