Do you know somone with a visceral reaction to olives? I do. In fact I used to be one. When I was a kid I hated olives. Didn’t matter if they were black, green, pitted, or stuffed with pimentos or pearl onions. If they were pierced with a toothpick, on my plate or touching my food…they were gross. One accidental touch on my tongue and I was spitting them out as if I’d swallowed rat poison. Yuck!
And then I traveled to Spain with my family and everything changed. All it took was ten days in Andalusia and BAM! I was a believer. An olive convert! Whether we were strolling along the posh waterfront boardwalks of Malaga with the who’s who of Europe sunning (turning to leather) on their yachts, or hiking the fortress plateaus of Granada; every meal included a terracotta ramekin full of locally grown olives…and they were amazing.
Spaniards are so proud of their olives and oil they serve them at every meal. It’s like crack to them and waiters are just drug pushers dressed in aprons! Breakfast, lunch, and dinner (which started at 10pm most nights) were accompanied by those briny spherical gems drenched in the most delicious fruity extra virgin and I ate them like candy.
I’m not exactly sure why I jumped ship when I’d been such a staunch olive-hater most of my life, but I’m assuming it was the quality of the olives and the oil they were served in.
So today, when I see Jonathan squint his eyes with disgust after just a whiff of an olive I think to myself he just needs his own gatekeeper experience. It’s sort of like the first few times you have sex and think gosh, this is horrible…and then all of the sudden, on the fourth or fifth try and POOF! you have your epiphany and finally you understand why porn accounts for 90% of all internet traffic.
Well this recipe for Chicken Marbella might just be that baby-step towards olive obsession. Inspired by the flavors of Spain and made popular by the classic Silver Palate cookbook this dish is always a crowd pleaser- olive lovers and haters alike. The salty tang of the olives is softened by the sweetness of prunes and brown sugar making distinct olive notes nearly undetectable. And if I can get him to admit he loves this recipe, then it’s that much harder for him to argue he hates this magical fruit! Yep, their fruits, not vegetables.
So if you’re trying to win your friends and family over with a delicious and easy meal, that happens to be full of olives, then this is the dish for you!
Chicken Marbella & Roasted Asparagus Rice Pilaf
For the Chicken:
- 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1.25 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- ½ cup pitted prunes
- ¼ cup pitted green olives (the original recipe calls for Spanish olives, but I don’t think it matters much if you use Italian or Greek)
- ¼ cup capers and some of their juice
- 3 dried bay leaves
- ½ a head of garlic peeled and minced
- 2 tblsp dried oregano
- salt & pepper to taste
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 1/3 cup dry white wine
- 1/8 cup fresh flat leaf Italian parsley chopped
For the rice:
- 2 boxes of Near East Brand’s Original Rice Pilaf Mix (most grocery stores have it)
- 14.5 oz can of low sodium chicken broth
- 1 ½ cups water
- 2 tblsp of unsalted butter
- 2 cups of roasted asparagus
Trim any excess fat off your chicken meat and pat it dry with paper towels and then set aside.
Roughly chop your green olives and prunes. The rougher the better if you ask me so you can still bite into them after they’ve soaked in this wonderful marinade your about to make and cook in the oven. Toss them into a large plastic Ziploc bag and then add the capers and juice, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, oregano, bay leaves, and salt and pepper. Squeeze the bag with your hands and squish everything around until it’s nice and mixed and then add the chicken meat.
Push as much of the air out of the bag as possible and gently massage the marinade around until the meat is good and smothered in it. Place the bag in a bowl in case there’s a leak or hole and put it in the fridge to marinade over night.
Preheat the oven to 350° F an hour before you’re ready to eat.
In a medium saucepan on high heat bring the chicken broth, water, and butter to a boil. Then stir in the rice and the contents of the pilaf packets and quickly bring it back to a boil before turning the heat to low. Cover the pot and let the rice simmer for 30-33 mins.
Pour the chicken and all the juices into an oven safe casserole or lasagna dish. Spread everything out into one even layer. If you have too much space between the pieces of meat the pan might be too big.
Sprinkle the brown sugar over the meat and pour the white wine into the dish around the chicken pieces, trying not to rinse the sugar off the chicken. It’s okay if you don’t use all the wine…just depends on how much space there is in the pan.
Bake the chicken in the oven for 30-40 mins until cooked or an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken breast is 165°-170°. Take he cooked chicken out of the oven and let it rest for 5-10 mins.
Place a mound of the cooked rice pilaf in the center of a serving platter and top the rice with the chicken pieces. Drizzle some of the remaining juices from the chicken pan over the chicken and rice, and then garnish with some chopped parsley and serve.
- It’s okay if you have a little less total liquid for the rice than what it calls for on the box…, because you want the rice to be cooked and not too wet since you’ll have all the juices from chicken to add to the platter before serving.
- To get rid of some leftover roasted asparagus from a previous meal, I just roughly chopped it up and mixed it in with the rice. You can do this with toasted pine nuts, Marcona almonds, roasted or sautéed mushrooms, etc. Have fun with it.
- The boneless skinless chicken meat is less fuss to eat and takes less time to cook….besides…without the skin, you save a Weight Watcher point or two.
- Chicken thighs are a fattier and more flavorful meat. For this reason, the thighs tend to retain their moisture. So feel free to make this dish with all thighs unless you know you have some eaters who specifically want breast meat.
- Try making this dish a second time with a slight spin on it and add some sun dried tomatoes to the marinade either instead of or with the prunes.