What’s my version of chicken Marbella 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.
For the chicken meat to taste like that, marinating is essential. Overnight in the fridge works best. In that time, the flavors start to blend, and the chicken begins to acquire color as it soaks up saltiness, acidity and sweetness.
In the oven, the chicken expels the water content in the meat, and that liquid combines with the rice wine and rice vinegar, providing just enough moisture to ensure that the chicken cooks in plenty of steam.
By the time the chicken comes out of the oven, the skin has turned a little crisp and small pool of juices have collected. Spoon some of those juices on the chicken and over your rice, or mop with bread. It is a wonderful dish. 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
- 6 large chicken thighs - bone-in and skin on
- 3 tablespoons salt - I used sea salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 generous pinches dried oregano - chopped
- 6 cloves garlic
- 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
- ½ cup rice wine
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 heaping tablespoons molasses
- Wipe the chicken thighs with paper towels and place in a bowl.
- Add the salt and pepper. Mix well, rubbing the salt and pepper into the chicken.
- 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.
- In a bowl, stir together the rice wine, rice vinegar, olive oil and molasses and pour over the chicken.
- Cover the container and stick in the fridge.
- Marinate the chicken overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 400F.
- 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.
- Roast the chicken at 400F for about 45 minutes (the actual cooking time depends on the size of the chicken thighs).
- Serve your a la chicken Marbella with rice or bread.