Way back a hundred million years ago, when Mr. SGCC and I were first married, we received a copy of The Silver Palate Cookbook as a wedding gift. It sat proudly on our orange crate bookcase alongside The Joy of Cooking and The Betty Crocker Cookbook, also wedding gifts. That bookcase made quite a statement paired with our dining room set consisting of a card table and four metal folding chairs. (Did I mention that we were poor as dirt back then?) Anyway, whenever I needed some culinary inspiration, I’d reach for Sheila and Julee’s wildly popular and creative tome of elegant entertaining to get me started.
The Silver Palate is one of the top 10 best-selling cookbooks of all time. Sheila Lukins and her business partner, Julee Rosso, wrote it in 1979, two years after they opened one of the nation’s first gourmet takeout shops of the same name in New York City. The book helped demystify and popularize gourmet cooking for millions of home cooks upon its publication in 1982 and continues to do so today. It is considered THE American cookbook of the Eighties. I didn’t know anyone who didn’t have a dog-eared, sauce-splattered copy of it in their kitchen arsenal. The recipes were innovative and accessible at the same time, using unique combinations of ingredients and advocating rich and bold flavors with a Mediterranean flair.
Lukins and Rosso split up years ago after a lot of acrimony, and their store was shuttered in 1993. Both went on to author other cookbooks and start new ventures. Lukins was the the food editor and columnist for Parade Magazine for over twenty years, a position previously held by Julia Child.
As many of you may already know, Sheila Lukins passed away from brain cancer several days ago at the age of sixty-six. She was a trailblazer in the culinary world, redefining the parameters of gourmet cooking for a whole generation. She will be sorely missed.
One of The Silver Palate’s most famous recipes – Chicken Marbella – was also the first main course to be offered for sale at the shop. It was also the first dish I ever served to company. Over the years it has become one of the most requested dishes in my repertoire. I thought it only fitting that I make it in Sheila Lukin’s honor and share it with you here. I’m sure I won’t be the only food blogger serving Chicken Marbella this week but, that’s okay. I’m sure Sheila would be pleased.
from The Silver Palate Cookbook
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Marinating time: 12 or more hours
Cooking time: approximately 1 hour
Yield: 12-14 servings
4 chickens, 2-1/2 pounds each, quartered
1 head of garlic, peeled and finely pureed
1/4 cup dried oregano
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup pitted prunes
1/2 cup pitted Spanish green olives
1/2 cup capers with a bit of juice
6 bay leaves
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white wine
1/4 cup Italian parsley or fresh coriander (cilantro), finely chopped
1. In a large bowl combine chicken quarters, garlic, oregano, pepper and coarse salt to taste, vinegar, olive oil, prunes, olives, capers and juice, and bay leaves. Cover and let marinate, refrigerated, overnight.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
3. Arrange chicken in a single layer in one or two large, shallow baking pans and spoon marinade over it evenly. Sprinkle chicken pieces with brown sugar and pour white wine around them.
4. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, basting frequently with pan juices. Chicken is done when thigh pieces, pricked with a fork at their thickest, yield clear yellow (rather than pink) juice.
5. With a slotted spoon transfer chicken, prunes, olives and capers to a serving platter. Moisten with a few spoonfuls of pan juices and sprinkle generously with parsley or cilantro. Pass remaining pan juices in a sauceboat.
6. To serve Chicken Marbella cold, cool to room temperature in cooking juices before transferring to a serving platter. If chicken has been covered and refrigerated, allow it to return to room temperature before serving. Spoon some of the reserved juices over chicken.