Chicken, Duck & Turkey

A la Chicken Marbella

Roast chicken in white wine with olives and capers, I read that Chicken Marbella was an iconic 1980’s dish. It came out of a cookbook published by a New York shop called Silver Palate and it became all the rage. I hadn’t heard about it until a few nights ago.

A la Chicken Marbella

I was doing my Pinterest thing and came across a recipe called roast chicken with dates, olives and capers. I adored how it looked, I loved the ingredients in the list and I was especially excited about the no-fuss cooking. Just marinate, stick into the oven and voila!

It wasn’t until I was ready to write a blog post that I bothered Googling “Chicken Marbella” on which the recipe was based. Apparently, the original recipe had prunes and brown sugar instead of dates and treacle. Naturally, I couldn’t call my recipe “Chicken Marbella” but, rather, a dish cooked in the style of Chicken Marbella.

A la Chicken Marbella

The dish begins with six large chicken thighs rubbed generously with salt and pepper. The chicken thighs were arranged in a non-reactive container and halved dates, chopped garlic, dried oregano, sliced onion, bay leaves, pitted olives and capers were sprinkled around them. Rice wine, rice vinegar, olive oil and molasses were mixed together and poured over everything. The container was covered and the chicken marinated in the fridge overnight.

As a side note, I prepped the chicken hurriedly because Alex and I were on our nth night of Game of Thrones marathon. She’s seeing seasons one thru six of the series for the first time and, with nothing interesting on TV, I figured why not do a marathon with her?

So, last night, we watched episodes seven and eight of season four when I declared a break. I had to marinate the chicken, I told her. I was in such a hurry to get back to GOT that I forgot to add bay leaves, olive oil and molasses to the chicken. I declared a five-minute break, went to the kitchen, took the chicken out of the fridge and uncovered the container. Oh my goodness, the aroma that hit my nose was soooo intoxicatingly delicious! And the ingredients were even incomplete at that point. I was already sure it was going to be a fantastic dish.

Anyway, I drained the contents of the container, added olive oil and molasses to the marinade, returned all the solid ingredients into the container, added bay leaves, poured in the modified marinade, sealed the container and put it back in the fridge. And the GOT marathon continued for another two hours.

A la Chicken Marbella

In the morning, while heavy rains poured as “Maring” lashed through the country (the 13th tropical depression this year), I transferred the contents of the container into a glass baking dish lined with non-stick paper (a precaution in case the sauce got sticky). The chicken thawed to room temperature while the oven was preheating.

A la Chicken Marbella

After 45 minutes at 400F, the chicken thighs were browned, the sauce had reduced and my a la chicken Marbella dish was ready to be served.

What was the dish like? Rich, subtly sweet and exceedingly aromatic. The acidity and saltiness of the olives and capers were mellowed by the rice wine. The molasses gave the dish a rich color. The rice vinegar balanced the sweetness of the dates. It was wonderful. I can fully understand why it became iconic in the 1980’s. And definitely a perfect dish to warm us on this cold wet day.

A la Chicken Marbella
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
45 mins
Total Time
55 mins
Servings: 3
Author: Connie Veneracion
  • 6 large chicken thighs bone-in and skin on
  • 3 tablespoons salt (I used sea salt)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 generous pinches dried oregano
  • 6 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1 onion thinly sliced
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 12 dates halved
  • 12 pitted olives (I used a combination of black and green)
  • 2 heaping tablespoons capers (with the brine)
  • 1/2 cup rice wine
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 heaping tablespoons molasses
  1. Wipe the chicken thighs with paper towels. Place in a bowl. Add the salt and pepper. Mix well, rubbing the salt and pepper into the chicken.

  2. Arrange the chicken thighs in a single layer in a non-reactive container (that means don't use aluminum or copper). Scatter the oregano, garlic, onion slices, bay leaves, dates, olives and capers around them.

  3. In a bowl, stir together the rice wine, rice vinegar, olive oil and molasses. Pour over the chicken.

  4. Cover the container and stick in the fridge. Marinate the chicken overnight.

  5. Preheat the oven to 400F.

  6. Take the chicken out of the fridge. If you marinated the chicken in a non-oven safe container, transfer them (and all other ingredients) to an oven safe pan. Let the chicken come to room temperature while the oven is preheating.

  7. Roast the chicken at 400F for about 45 minutes (the actual cooking time depends on the size of the chicken thighs). 

  8. Serve the chicken with rice or bread.

A la Chicken Marbella

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