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Nov 1, 2007 09:01 AM

The Silver Palate Cookbook: The Main Course

November 2007 Cookbook of the Month: The Silver Palate Cookbook by Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins.

Please post your full-length reviews of main course recipes here. Please mention the name of the recipe you are reviewing as well as any modifications you made to the recipe.

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  1. I'm so excited about finally participating in a Cookbook of the Month, and was so pleased that Silver Palate was chosen. I used to cook from it a lot, but stopped consulting it for some reason. I've gone through and marked a bunch of recipes to try.

    So tonight I finally cooked that classic, Chicken Marbella, and it was everything everyone said it was. The salty sweet sour chickeny juices were totally addictive! I used 4 chicken legs and cut the recipe in 1/4, which worked fine -- two for tonight and two to try cold. (I can't believe they think 4 quartered chickens will only serve 10-12 people -- more like 12-16!)

    I will make a few changes next time, though. I think I'll chop the olives and prunes into quarters so they're more distributed, both for cooking and for eating. And I need to use a different pan because a mere 4 quarters on a baking sheet meant the juices spread out too much, so I couldn't baste and a lot of those yummy juices dried up on the pan. (The chicken did fine without basting, though, so I don't think I'll worry about that part.) I might cut the brown sugar back a bit too. The garlic, oregano, vinegar, and caper amounts seemed just right.

    I'm a little dubious about eating it cold, partly because I'm not a big fan of cold chicken in general. We'll see. Maybe I'll end up heating my portion up anyhow.

    I made the Cracked Wheat Salad (which is more like a room-temp pilaf) and it went with the chicken nicely.

    13 Replies
    1. re: Karen_Schaffer

      >>I used 4 chicken legs and cut the recipe in 1/4, which worked fine -- two for tonight and two to try cold. (I can't believe they think 4 quartered chickens will only serve 10-12 people -- more like 12-16!)<<

      Chickens used to be smaller in the past (as recently as 20 years ago, in the era of Silver Palate). Commonly, the whole chickens you'd buy in the store were between 2-3/4 and 3-1/2 lbs, so their portions make sense in an era before 1 lb chicken breasts were regularly available.

      1. re: DanaB

        Yes, I just skimmed the recipe and it calls for 4-2.5 lb. birds. I haven't been able to get a whole chicken under 4 lbs. lately at my butcher. I'm going to try this recipe w/ a 4-4.5 pounder and halve the other ingredients. I'm looking forward to trying it!

        BTW, did the SP ladies invent this dish?

        1. re: Carb Lover


          “Sheila Lukins invented the dish in her pre-Silver Palate days, she said, when she was catering for single men in New York.

          "’I needed stuff that could be put together, marinated and then baked off the next day," she recalled in a phone interview.’

          “Lukins liked to cook sweet and savory dishes, like those she sampled on her travels in Spain and Morocco.

          "’That combination of fruits and olives, brown sugar and wine, it was just kind of a natural for me," she said. "But it was very unusual here. It was shocking.’"

      2. re: Karen_Schaffer

        I did exactly the same as you--four chicken legs and quartered the recipe. Slight worry when I was assembling the marinade ingredients: I added salt to taste before I remembered about the capers and olives. Luckily, it didn't turn out too salty, but then I don't usually eat all the skin.

        I also did chop the prunes and olives into pieces, which worked well. And thanks to the microplane, pureeing garlic takes about 4 seconds per clove. I marinated the chicken in a ziploc in the fridge overnight.

        I'm always slightly wary of sugar in recipes, so I probably used less than the 1/4 cup; I just sprinkled on a couple of small handfuls.

        And like you, I found that my pan was too big. I'd definitely go for the smaller one next time, because I had very little pan juice left in the end. It had all gone very sticky, but I deglazed with a little water and it turned out well.

        Because of the bold flavors in the recipe, I decided to serve with mild mashed potatoes (I had a few that needed to be used up). The deglazed juices were delicious with the potatoes. I loved the taste, and so did my S.O. It's often hard to get really excited about chicken, but a successful new recipe is always welcome.

        I look forward to trying it cold this afternoon, but I'll definitely be making this again. I have some "cooking apricots" in the pantry, and so I might try adding those next time. I also loved that it was so easy and hands-off, very good return for the effort involved.

        1. re: Kagey

          Re the Chicken Marbella.

          Has anybody made it with just apricots instead of the prunes? I'm thinking of making it tonight (well marinating first), but don't want to run out to the store. It will be my first time, though, making this dish, so should I wait until I have prunes so I can follow the exact recipe? Thanks!

          1. re: Rubee

            I'm sure it will taste as good, if not better, just using the apricots you have on hand. A lot of people think they don't like prunes much, anyway.

        2. re: Karen_Schaffer

          My turn to make this recipe (Chicken Marbella, p. 105 in the 25th anniv. edition).

          I agree with all the comments - I can see why this is a classic dish from this book. I used apricots since I didn't have prunes, cut the olives in half since they were large, and roasted the chicken in a shallow baking dish. For the two of us, I used about a 3-1/2-4-pound chicken that I quartered, and halved the rest of the ingredients. I especially like that it's an easy recipe once you get the marinade ingredients together (though I put the garlic through a press instead of pureeing), and that it can also be served cold - the leftovers will be nice for lunch tomorrow. It's a keeper!

          1. re: Rubee

            I've been making this for years. Also, for years, I called it 'Dianne's Chicken' because the first time I had it, my friend Greg's wife, Dianne, made it and I made her give me the recipe on the spot. It has to be the most ridiculously easy recipe with the greatest payoff there is. It looks beautiful, tastes great, you have that amazing sauce for dipping (I serve the sauce in little ramekins next to the plate with lots of bread for dipping) and people think you worked all day.

            Although I love the prunes in it -- and would never touch a prune otherwise -- I bet the apricots would be excellent as well. You could probably do a mixture of dried fall fruits and have it be wonderful.

            1. re: Tom P

              Now that I've made Chicken Marbella -- oh, about eight or ten times since I first tried the dish in Nobember 2007 -- I am returning to these comments and tips. I really like your idea on the sauce in little ramekins for dipping, Tom, and I will definitely try it that way when I make it for my sweety and her family very soon!

            2. re: Rubee

              Chicken Marbella

              Great photo, Rubee! I think dried apricots would be great, and I will use a combo of prunes and apricots next time. Yes, there will be a next time. Overall, I liked this recipe but not so much as-is but for its possibilities. It's unfussy and very adaptable for seasonings and amounts.

              I used one 4-lb. bird cut into 8 pieces and halved most of the amounts. I only used about 1/4-1/3 c. brown sugar and thought it was too sweet so I will only sprinkle on a little bit next time. I can't imagine using one cup of brown sugar for a full batch. I didn't have dried oregano on hand so used a dried 5-herb Middle Eastern blend. I like that the chicken is marinated overnight since the flavors really blend and penetrate. The pan juice was delicious after defatting.

              I think I'll just use leg/thigh quarters in the future since that part was the tastiest. I'm thinking of subbing lemon juice for the vinegar next time. Has anyone tried that?

              No disrespect to this recipe, but I'm looking forward to playing w/ the seasonings and coming up w/ my own version that suits my tastes a little better.


            3. re: Karen_Schaffer

              My report on Chicken Marbella (p. 86 original edition):
              In a word: yum! I love the salty and sour tastes.

              Here's what I did: used 3 full legs (leg w/ thigh attached) and roughly halved the other ingredients. Mixed most of marinade in mini-food processor (starting w/ garlic so I wouldn't have to chop). I followed others' advice and added only about 2 T brown sugar (whoops! to the marinade), about 1 T oregano and 1 t thyme (a natural w/ chicken). I was low on capers so added extra olives (torn into pieces) and used raisins (Flame -- they're large) since I didn't have other dried fruit on hand. Marinated in zip lock bag overnight.

              I didn't have white wine so I substituted chicken stock w/ a bit of sherry and sherry vinegar. I used a pan that was just as large as chicken in on layer, and had lots of sauce left (I suppose the stock doesn't boil off as would wine). It took longer than an hour to cook.
              (I thought of Molly Stevens as I cooked it -- what? braising w/o a lid?)

              I love chicken w/ olives and this is a nice change of pace to my regular chicken cacciatore.

              1. re: Karen_Schaffer

                Chicken Marbella (p. 105 in the 25th anniv. edition)

                My turn for this recipe. It was ok. Didn't love it, didn't hate and just enh about it. I like the idea and concept of it - marinate with salty and sweet over night and then a quick bake. I used a 3 1/2 lb chicken, cut into quarters and subbed in chopped apricots for prunes. I used a little less apricots then called for because I'm not that into fruit in with my entrees. I made about half the marinade for the one chicken and I used less than 1/4 cup of brown sugar (I also had a concern about the overall result being too sweet).

                I kept in mind the posters comments about the juice or lack thereof. So, I used a small pan to cook the chicken as well as a wee bit extra wine. So, I had plenty of sauce. But, I found the sauce to be fatty. The chicken gave off more fat than expected and it was difficult to separate it from the sauce. I'm glad I used less sugar and apricots because I did favor the olives and capers more.

                I don't know why I didn't love this dish. Part of it was the flabby skin, part of it was the fatty sauce.

                I served this with braised fennel (ABB) and basmati rice.

                1. re: beetlebug

                  I finally made the Marbella too.

                  I found the hints on this page very useful - I used apricots and dialed down the oregano (only a TB for my 4 lb chicken), and dialed up the white wine (I poured it around until I was satisfied that there was enough, I'm not sure how much I used).

                  I actually did not chop my chicken into pieces, but I did remove all of the skin from my chicken, and then I held it under running water and pulled off soft bits of fat with my fingers from all over the chicken before marinating it. The results were delicious, but still a tiny bit greasier than I prefer (probably just right for most people though). I also basted the chicken and waited a few minutes before eating, and I did not take any extra sauce. So if you liked the flavors but found it too fatty, you might consider making adaptations like this.

                  I did, however, LOVE the apricot-caper-olive flavor. Just because prepping the chicken took me a long time, I had actually left those three in the olive oil and vinegar for probably 30 minutes first, and tasting individual pieces of apricot now they're kindof salty and briny like an olive or caper, which is a great combination for my palate, and surprising.

                  Overall I will definitely make this again, in my less-fat-and-skin adapated form.

              2. Jfood loves the Salmon Croquetees out of the "Basics" book. He always makes a double recipe because most of the finished products get eaten before they are served. Jfood always has a couple of large cans of salmon from Costco in the basement storage and when he runs out of frozen croquettes he makes a batch. They are simple to make, the mayo addition to the mix, when fried, creates an incredibly crispy exterior.

                Please read the whole recipe before trying the first time as not all the bread crumbs are in the mix, but used as a coating.

                Love these and they freeze very well.

                1. Well..... last night for dinner I made the Pork Loin stuffed with fruit. Can't remember the page right now but I'll post it tomorrow if anyone wants it. I followed it to the letter and I can't say we were especially blown away. The idea of the combination of fruit and meat is not foreign to us, I grew up with homemade peach chutney made from fruit from our own trees, served during the winter with roast meats of all kinds and like the flavors together. But somehow this dish didn't have the oomph I was looking for. The prunes and apricots were very tasty by themselves, though. LOL I prepared the pocket for the stuffing myself and did all else per the directions. The meat was tender but there was something missing. Side dishes were steamed Brussel sprouts and potato galette. If I ever make the stuffed pork again, I'll use minced garlic, rosemary, thyme and more S & P in the stuffing. Good culinary exercise it was though. I even remembered how to tie the roast with butcher's knots. Haven't done that for a long time.

                  Next is another soup from the book on Wednesday. I'll be back.....

                  1. I made Raspberry Chicken last night. I was looking for something fast for a weekday night, and thought that this recipe might be a bit neglected coming right after chicken marbella.

                    It's pretty straightforward: boneless, skinless chicken breasts that are flattened slightly with your hand. I sauteed them in butter until brown on both sides, removed them from the pan, and then sauteed chopped onions until tender. Then I added 1/4 cup of raspberry vinegar (I also had raspberry balsamic, but used straight up raspberry vinegar instead) and let that cook down until it got syrupy. Once that happened, I added chicken stock, creme fraiche, and a bit of crushed tomatoes, let that just come to a simmer. Then you add the chicken breasts back in and let them complete cooking at a low simmer in the sauce.

                    Once the chicken is done, came the controversial part: The cookbook tells you to remove the chicken from the sauce, and add fresh raspberries to the sauce (the sauce is quite delicious on its own) and then to just poach those berries for about a minute. I did this, and served the chicken with the sauce plus raspberries. The sauce is savory, not sweet, so the sweetness of the raspberries is an interesting contrast. I liked (but wasn't nuts about) the sauce with the raspberries, but the husband absolutely hated it. He did like the chicken and the sauce though, so next time I think we'll just leave the final step out.

                    We served it with saffron rice and roasted zucchini.

                    All in all, it was a tasty if not earth-shattering meal. I think that it will get occasionally pulled out (minus the raspberries) for a weeknight dinner.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Megiac

                      I can't believe no one has posted a recommendation for the Chicken Dijonnaise on page 91 of the SP book. This is one of my fall back recipes. For those of you who eat at Cheesecake Factory, it closely resembles their Dijon chicken with artichokes that they just recently took off the menu. I love this dish and it is easily prepared ahead of time and reheated later or served at room temperature.

                      As for the rest of the book or books, I often turn to these books for inspiration, but rarely do I actually cook out of them.

                      1. re: kennedy

                        I love that dish too, and thank you for reminding me of it -- I went through a period where that was my standby weeknight dish, and then I just stopped making it. I should make it again soon, it's excellent.

                        1. re: kennedy

                          I recalled these glowing reports on Chicken Dijonnaise in my recent search for new weeknight inspiration.... thanks for sharing. I will give this one a try tonight or tomorrow night :)

                        2. re: Megiac

                          RASPBERRY CHICKEN!

                          In April (last month, April 2009), my SO and I made the raspberry chicken, following the instructions for the recipe as Megiac described above. We really enjoyed it, and actually she chose it as one of her top favorite choices for weeknight dinners. That time we served it with Forbidden Rice (the wild black rice -- actually we weren't wild about this rice, except for the color on the plate) and grilled asparagus.

                          Tonight we tried it again with BLACKBERRIES. Wow. We both liked this even more than the raspberry chicken. My only issue was that the chicken took longer than the suggested five minutes once they go back in the sauce, and my sauce reduced too much. So after I took all of the chicken out, I added a little more more stock and cream and tomato paste. Heated that all together, and then in went the blackberries.

                          They say not to smush the fruit into the sauce -- but we wanted to (both times, with raspberry and blackberry sauce), and we were so happy we did. I served the blackberry chicken with smashed potatoes with red pepper sauce. I call this Celebration of Natural Color meal. Made me think of those contests they do on Top Chef sometimes... make a dish to feature this or that color.

                          Here are photos of the blackberry chicken and the smashed potatoes... yay!

                        3. Made the Chicken Marbella last night. My husband loved it, while I was sort of so-so on the whole thing. Not bad at all, just not special. I also cut the recipe in half, and used chicken thighs. I cut back on the brown sugar as carb lover recommended (I'm not a huge fan of sweet and savory together, although I'm starting to come around a little). The chicken was wonderfully tender, but somehow cooking the olives and capers for that long took a bit of the bite from them. It was interesting, just not as fantastic as I guess i was hoping it would be, considering how much of an "it" recipe it was.