Taking inspiration from a classical French cooking plat du jour called “lapin aux pruneauxand” and one of most legendary dishes to ever to come out of The Silver Palate Cookbook in the 1980’s, this mediterranean chicken dish is a guaranteed crowd pleaser! The chicken is first marinated in olive oil, red wine vinegar, capers, olives, prunes, and oregano, and then baked with an addition of brown sugar and white wine. Sound delicious? It is! This is a fabulous dinner party dish with aromatic mix of sweet, salty and tangy flavors. Chicken never tasted better!
The fantastic part is…this simple and tasty recipe is best prepared at least a day ahead, making it a great choice for your next dinner party. The overnight marination is essential to the chicken’s moistness and actually improves over 48 hours of refrigeration.
Prunes are signature to this dish, as are olives and capers. I use tiny nonpareil capers (in brine) which are delicate in flavor and texture. Translated from French, “non-pareil” means “has no equal.” I love them. With their briny punch, they introduce a delicious complexity to anything you are cooking.
Capers are preserved a number of ways — either in salt, wine vinegar, brine or olive oil. Most capers we see in Germany are packed in a vinegar or salt brine. I always buy those in salt as I find that the vinegar packed ones taste much too acidic. Plus, it is generally considered that the smaller the caper, the better the taste. With larger capers, you need to be more discriminating as they are more intense in flavor and may overwhelm the very dish they are meant to complement.
Mediterranean Chicken Marbella
8 skinless, boneless, chicken breasts halves (about 1.3 kg)
10 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup dried oregano (about 4 tablespoons) (try Greek oregano for a richer, more aromatic flavor)
coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup good-quality red wine vinegar (125 ml)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (80 ml)
1 cup dried pitted prunes (100 g)
1 cup green and black olives (I like to use a mix of green mammoth olives and Marmara Birlik olives) (180 g)
1/2 cup capers with a small splash of their brine (60 g)
6 bay leaves
1 cup soft brown sugar (I recommend GEPA organic raw cane sugar Mascobado) (140 g)
1 cup dry white wine (250 ml)
chopped flat leaf parsley or fresh cilantro, garnish
1. Arrange the chicken breasts in a single layer in a large casserole dish and combine the garlic, oregano, salt, pepper, vinegar, olive oil, prunes, olives, capers with some brine, and bay leaves. Cover and let marinate, refrigerated, overnight.
2. Preheat oven to 350°F / 175°C.
3. Spoon marinade evenly over the chicken breasts. Sprinkle with brown sugar and pour the white wine around them.
4. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes (depending on the size of the chicken breasts), basting every 10 minutes with the pan juices until the chicken is done and no longer pink when cut in the center.
5. Transfer to a serving platter, spoon some of the pan juices over the chicken and sprinkle generously with parsley or cilantro. Serve any remaining juices in a gravy dispenser.
6. Serve with couscous or rice to soak up the wonderfully flavorful sauce. Enjoy!