Prunes Opus #1
Weird but true statement: I love prunes. I think I want that on a T-shirt. Ok, maybe not. I love their rich, creamy texture and deep flavor. Somehow though, I can’t bring myself to refer to them any other way than that: prune. It seems disrespectful to refer to the proud and honorable grandfather of the raisin as a “Dried Plum”. But let’s face it, prunes are not “cool” or “hip” or “groovy” and I think that’s right and good. Don’t go tryin’ to change them!
I’ve always loved pastries made with lekvar, a.k.a. prune butter. My prune world began in my VERY (as I’ve mentioned before) ethnic hometown region with those Eastern European-Slovak-Polish types. I’ve had the best darned Kolaczki which is a prune butter filled cookie.
And my other favorite is Kolachi (I know it looks almost like the same word as Kolaczki, but note the pictures. They’re definitely different) which is a sweet yeast pastry, rolled and filled with prune butter, a ground nut mixture or poppy butter. Hungarians call this Beigli. I made the rolls at Christmas and Easter and overfilled them so they exploded a bit on top, but they were still out of this world delicious.
When I found the Chicken Marbella recipe years ago in The Silver Palate Cookbook, I nearly flipped my lid. Prunes with chicken?! It’s an unbelievable combination of savory and sweet: the savory herbs, olives, capers and garlic paired with the sweetness of the prunes and brown sugar. You know a recipe has to be good when it’s appealing even in its raw state. Of course I would never and don’t have any sort of gastronomic death wish. I’m talking purely visual here.
The marinade has many ingredients, but the whole thing comes together easily and is never disappointing. Also, you can use whatever type of chicken you like in a 3-5 lb range. So, now that the quality of light is changing and the days are just a wee bit shorter, throw the ingredients in a big bowl or pot to marinate and invite some friends for dinner the following evening. After marinating, all you have to do is bake and arrange on a platter – that’s it! They will worship and adore you and you can sit back with a glass of wine (or a few!) and enjoy the cool evening and the warmth of friendship.
Serves 6-8 or more
- 3 – 5 pounds of chicken (any combination of quarters, thighs, wings or just plain boneless, skinless breast)
- 1 head of garlic, peeled and rough chopped
- 1/4 cup dried oregano
- kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 cup pitted prunes
- 1/2 cup green olives
- 1/2 cup (or whole 3 ounce jar) capers with a bit of juice
- 6 bay leaves
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup white wine
- 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley or fresh cilantro, chopped
In a large bowl combine chicken, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper to taste, vinegar, olive oil, prunes, olives, capers and juice, and bay leaves. Cover and let marinate, refrigerated, overnight.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange chicken pieces in a single layer in a shallow roasting pan and spoon marinade over it evenly. Sprinkle chicken with brown sugar and pour white wine around them.
Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, basting occasionally with pan juices. With a slotted spoon, transfer chicken, prunes, olives and capers to a serving platter. Moisten with pan juices and, if desired, sprinkle generously with parsley or cilantro. Pan juices can be served on the side. Chicken can be enjoyed hot or at room temperature.
Credit:The Silver Palate Cookbook