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Dec 15, 2011 09:00 AM

Anyone tried CI's new take on Chicken Marbella?

It looks pretty appealing and I'm going to try it this weekend. The problems they were looking to solve (flabby skin, overly-sweet marinade) were exactly my issues with the dish.

I'm not a subscriber but the video is pretty informative and I may buy this for myself as a stocking stuffer.

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  1. Thank you for sharing! Though I have had the Silver Palate books for ages, I have not cooked from them for the last few years. This re-worked recipe sounds very appealing. I love the addition of anchovies and pepper flakes but would not want to put anchovies in the paste that goes on top of the chicken. I prefer to melt them into the pan sauce. Since chicken is a staple in my kitchen, I'll definitely try this recipe soon. Thanks again!

    11 Replies
    1. re: herby

      A generational point: I've never had the original Chicken Marbella, just a bit too young, I guess, and I cannot say that the CI description of the original dish looked appealing at all. (I subscribe, so I read it.) What puzzles me is why, if the dish is so sweet and soggy, it was ever a sensation.

      To herby, you might consider using fish sauce for the anchovy flavor. I do that often for tomato sauces and soups and other things that can use a barely-detectable anchovy boost.

      1. re: Bada Bing

        "What puzzles me is why, if the dish is so sweet and soggy, it was ever a sensation."

        It's the Frankendish, Bada Bing. It refuses to die. I've had this abomination served to me at several dinner parties in recent years. I think it is a dish that a novice cook, or someone who does not frequently give dinner parties, thinks is company-friendly.

        1. re: roxlet

          OK, this makes sense. I had it for the first time recently at a dinner party, and it involved overcooked b/s chicken breasts. I wondered if the original (with bone-in chicken pieces) was any better. I didn't hate it, but the combination didn't really wow me, either.

          1. re: roxlet

            It was a sensation because the flavor combination was new and delicious at the time (provided the sugar isn't overdone), and because it was simple: marinate, then cook in the oven. It is, in fact, company friendly: guests like it, there's not any last-minute fussiness, it produces a sauce that goes well with anything starchy.

            Using their own judgment, a lot of cooks have probably remedied the defects of the original dish. The first, and most obvious, is just to cut the sugar waaay down, using it only for a sprinkle to crisp the skin of the chicken (and, yes, it seems completely pointless to use skinless chicken breasts). The flabbiness of the skin is avoided by making sure it rests above the liquid in the oven stage, and run it under the broiler for a minute or two if necessary.

            1. re: ellabee

              I'll say I made the original for years and loved it. The key, to me, is to leave enough skin above the marinade that is crisps and not to add too much sugar (a lot of olives and herbs help.) Everyone is right that it is a very easy dish, and looks beautiful (if prepared correctly) so it is indeed great for a novice cook. But I love it still. I'll probably try the CI version at some point for fun.

              1. re: ellabee

                "guests like it"

                I never did, and I am not alone. I never found the flavor combination to be "new and delicious." To each his own, I suppose...

                1. re: roxlet

                  No, you are NOT alone! I just thought it was weird and unpleasant.

                  1. re: mcf

                    Clearly it's not for everyone, but just as clearly, a majority of those who served it got a good response from their guests. Otherwise, it would never have spread so quickly. Chicken Marbella and its variations were also top sellers at the original Silver Palate store.

                    As the CI article notes, in the 1980s, the eastern Mediterranean/Moroccan combination of savory tastes (olives, capers, garlic, bay) with meat and fruit was something quite new for many Americans, and exciting. Combined with the ease of preparation and good looks, that novelty made it a popular choice to cook for guests.

                    1. re: ellabee

                      Honestly, I've found that if you put enough sugar in it, a large contingent will love it no matter what. Add salt and butter and HOME RUN! :-)

                      1. re: mcf

                        You are so right. My husband considers it for people who have "juvenile" tastebuds, really don't like food, and need everything to be sweet. It's dessert for dinner.

            2. re: Bada Bing

              I'm not at all too young, and I know that it has a great reputation people love and request this recipe, but I've never been a huge fan. I like the idea of anchovy paste and crisping up the skin would be a good thing. I'm just not sure this dish is worth the trouble. IMO, it just doesn't live up to its mythology.

          2. I got the hard copy magazine a week ago with this updated recipe; wow, sure took me back!
            I worked as a catering chef back in those days when Silver Palate and Martha ruled the world....

            Went back and found the original, and the CI update does sound like a good fresh aproach. The original does sound too sweet now. I have not made the update yet, but will probably get to it in January.
            Will post results here, and you do the same all you CH'ders!

            1. I just saw the new recipe in my issue. I've been making Chicken Marbella a la Silver Palate, but have already adjusted the sweetness and one or two other things. I don't know if I'll try the new recipe because frankly, I love the fact that I can do all the prep work one day, and just pop the dish into the oven the next.
              That said, I'm willing to change my mind and give it a try, based on reports.

              5 Replies
              1. re: monavano

                Monovano, I am with you on the joys of the prep for the old version. Can you share what else you have changed? I haven't made it in about 10 years or more...

                Sometimes, I do know that CI is all about improving the final dish, (and they say they don't want over-complication), but sometimes, I find their recipes to be a bit fussy in the steps involved.

                We shall see about this one!

                1. re: gingershelley

                  The first time I made it, I used prunes and I thought them to be a bit bitter. Perhaps my prunes were bitter? Maybe. But, the next time I made it, I used dried apricots (sometimes throw in a handful of dried cherries too) and it was terrific. I also decreased the amount of brown sugar to just a light dusting over the top of the chicken.
                  Agree about CI!

                2. re: monavano

                  I've fooled around with the recipe, too, to get a better proportion of sweet to salty. I haven't made it in a long time but I used only thighs and drumsticks and they were not sitting in a lot of liquid. I loved how easy it is. I have had some really bad versions of it, especially ones made w/ overly dry boneless skinless chicken breasts.

                  1. re: chowser

                    I now know I'm really late to the game with Chicken Marbella! I only started to make it about a year ago...
                    But, I'm already ensconced in the "make it ahead, bake it later" thinking. Just. Love. That.

                    1. re: monavano

                      I love that too, and have altered recipe to my taste. I run it under the broiler so no flabby skin.

                3. Can someone paraphrase the new recipe and post it? I love chicken marbella, however, I would love to learn a new way to prepare it. Thanks.

                  1. I just looked at my issue of Cook's Illustrated (17Dec11, 1:38p.m.) to see what the controversy is about. Too many ingredient for me to bother with an attempt at making it.

                    I prefer the leg portions of chicken and turkey because they have more flavor than the breast portions and are more moist. When I make chicken paprikash, I use boneless chicken thighs. Also use them for jambalaya.