On Sunday night, as we were all longing for an extra week or, dare we say it, month of holiday vacation, we decided that we needed to do something about extending our holiday mood throughout the year. Sometime, in the middle of the week, each and every week of January, if not the whole year, we are going to feast like kings. The trick, however, will be to keep it healthy and to manage it on a non-holiday budget. Our first weeknight feast is our take on a classic…. So, if you’re looking for a luxurious meal that is light, incredibly easy to put together, and easy on the pocket book, look no further than the Lunchbox Season’s Chicken MarVella.
I had been wanting to revisit The Silver Palate’s legendary and ridiculously easy Chicken Marbella for quite some time. The big problem is, and as Italian as a I am, I am not a great fan of one of the main flavourings in the recipe, dried oregano, nor is the rest of the family. So, the kids and I scoured the spice drawer and found an alternative: za’atar. [If you don’t have za’atar, you can make your own by combining thyme, ground sumac, sesame seeds, and salt in a ratio of 4:2:1:1/6, omit the sesame if there are allergies. Or, you can substitute the dried green spice or spice mix of your choosing, i.e. thyme.] Also, I prefer a recipe that feeds a family of four for two nights as opposed to the banquet style portions of the original. And, since we’re much bigger fans of dark meat on the bone than of breast meats, per se, we subbed in more frugal bone in chicken legs and thighs for the whole chickens called for in the recipe. So, yes, indeed, we played with the flavours of the original Marbella and trimmed down the proportions to our liking. To go with some of the mediterranean flavours, for instance, we also made the addition of our house-made preserved lemon.
The results? The Lunchbox Season’s own Chicken MarVella. The V is for the Valentine in all of us. And believe us, this dinner will be your Valentine, even if it’s only January. It’s super easy to prep: you simply set the dish to marinate the night before and throw it in the oven the next evening. As for ingredients, most, if not all of these [the olives, capers, prunes, etc.] came in no-name brand packaging at our small, local grocery. So, #frugalon , folks ….Thursday dinner never tasted so good.
The Lunchbox Season's Chicken MarVella
- 2.2 Kg or about 5 lbs chicken thighs and legs, bone in.
- 3 tbs minced garlic [we used store-bought minced garlic in oil]
- 3 tbs za'atar* [or dried spice mix of your liking]
- 2-3 tsp coarse salt [we used sea salt]
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 c balsamic red wine, malt, or cider vinegar [we used balsamic]
- 1/4 olive oil
- 1/2 cup pitted prunes [rough chopped if desired dried apricots, raisins, or other non-sweetened dried fruits may be substituted]
- 1/2 cup pitted green olives [we used sliced no-name Spanish Queen but those little pre-sliced circlets will do just fine]
- 1/4 cup capers in their juice [that's about 1/2 a jar]
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 quarters of preserved lemon rinsed slightly if desired, and chopped [optional]
- 1/2 c brown sugar [may be omitted but not recommended]
- 1/2 c dry white wine chicken stock, or beer
- 3 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley [optional]
- 3 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro [optional]
Night Before, 10 Minute Prep
- In a large bowl, combine garlic, za'atar, salt, pepper, vinegar, olive oil, prunes, olives, capers in juice, bay leaves, and preserved lemon.
- Add the chicken and rub with marinade.
- Spread chicken and marinade into a large roasting pan.
- Cover with foil or plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
Easy Weeknight 1 Hour Bake
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Remove the covering from the roasting pan.
- Sprinkle the sugar over the chicken. [Again, the sugar may be omitted for a slightly less addictive meal, but you will have missed perfection!]
- Pour the wine or stock over top.
- Bake, uncovered, for at least 1 hour or until the chicken reaches a safe internal temperature of at least 165F (74C).
- Sprinkle the dish with fresh chopped parsely and cilantro [optional].
- Plate the poultry and spoon the sauce over top.
- Or, cool the dish and serve cold.
- Most importantly, ENJOY!
Here’s how easy it is to assemble, marinate overnight, and bake, in 4 easy photos: