Chicken Marbella: French, Italian, Spanish??

I made a variation of Chicken Marbella for dinner the other night. Like many new recipes I try, I wanted to do a little research about the origin of the dish. The first recipe I found described the dish as an Italian-American preparation. The next several recipes, said the dish was French, hmmm. Puzzled, I looked further, and discovered that Marbella is a city on the Mediterranean coast of Spain (a beautiful place that I have actually traveled, though I was a bit to the east). The ingredients including olives, capers, garlic and prunes, seem to fit with the dish being more Spanish. Further research led me to Slow Burning Passion where I uncovered the story of Sheila Lukins, the Jewish New Yorker who is credited for developing the recipe. I was happy to read that Ms. Lukins did travel the Mediterranean, and was inspired by Spanish and North African cuisine. So, though it was born in New York, I still think of this as a Mediterranean dish.

I love to combine sweet and savory, and use fruit in many dishes. And, though people tend to think of prunes in a more, umm, functional manner, I love them. Really, there is nothing in this recipe that I don’t adore: garlic, olives, chicken thighs…yum! I, perhaps, use a tad bit more garlic than the traditional Chicken Marbella recipes call for because, well, it’s garlic!

I have seen this dish prepared two ways. One roasts the chicken thigh pieces in the oven while making the sauce on the stove top, and then adds the thighs to the sauce. The other, the one that I used, browns the thighs in a pan on the stove, sets them aside, makes the sauce using the drippings in the pan, and then returns the thighs to the pan, and finishes the dish in the oven. 

After trying this dish, I am certain there will be more of it in my future. It was so tasty that I ate the leftovers for breakfast the following day. I reheated it (though I may have eaten a couple cloves of garlic and an olive or two, cold, right out of the container).

Chicken Marbella
Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: Mediterranean
A sweet and savory sauce of garlic, olives and prunes dresses tender chicken thighs.
  • 1½ lbs Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs
  • 1 small head of Garlic (about 6 cloves, cut each clove in half)
  • 4 pitted Prunes (cut in pieces and rehydrated in ⅓ C warm water)
  • 1 T Capers
  • 8-10 Green Olives (pitted, without pimentos and sliced in half)
  • 1 T Brown Sugar
  • 2 T Butter
  • 1½ T Sherry Vinegar
  • 1-2 sprigs fresh Oregano
  • Olive oil
  1. Preheat the oven to 465 degrees.
  2. Heat olive oil over medium high heat in a skillet that can go in the oven.
  3. Brown both sides of the chicken thighs, then remove and set aside.
  4. In the same skillet with the chicken renderings, add a little more olive oil.
  5. Toss in the garlic a stir while it cooks for 1-2 minutes.
  6. Add the prunes with their water, capers, olives, brown sugar, and vinegar.
  7. Stir and let reduce about 2 more minutes.
  8. Add butter to finish sauce.
  9. Add the chicken back in.
  10. Top with the sprigs of oregano.
  11. Put in the oven and cook 12-14 minutes.
  12. Remove the oregano stems before serving.