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Chicken Marbella

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Easy and quick

#1 dinner party recipe of the 80's

I once read this Chicken Marbella recipe from The Silver Palate Cookbook was the most popular dinner party recipe of the 80's. How that factoid was determined, I am not sure, but I do believe it. I know I served it up for guests on many occasions, and was likewise served Chicken Marbella time and time again at other people's homes. Even without big hair, shoulder pads, leg warmers, inline skates and a Member's Only jacket, Chicken Marbella is as good today as it was back in the 80's. Maybe better!

Dinner party or weeknight dish

There are a lot of good things about Chicken Marbella. It takes about 20 minutes of active preparation time. It can be prepared in advance, as the chicken should marinate overnight if possible. It can be served hot or room temperature, and is great the next day as leftovers.


  • I prefer to use chicken thighs (here is why), but you can substitute any type of chicken.
  • Save a step and don't wash your chicken. Read this to see why.
  • Use a Cuisinart mini-prep food processor to chop the garlic and it will cut way down on your preparation time. (You will find this to be one of the best $40 you have ever spent on a kitchen appliance.) See my post on garlic to learn how to peel garlic quickly.
  • You can substitute dried apricots or figs for the prunes if you wish.

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80's party theme ideas

If you are so inspired, here are some ideas for an 80's theme party and a look into life in the 80's. Chicken Marbella may have been one of the best things the 80's delivered!

  • Menu:  Filo and spinach trianglesChicken Marbella, Canalis Salad, Mud pie
  • Cocktails: Kamikaze, Cosmopolitan, B52, Fuzzy Navel, Sex-on-the-beach, Between-the-sheets (There definitely is a Love and War theme to these 80's cocktails!)
  • Music: Duran Duran, Journey, Queen, Madonna, Michael Jackson, U2, Wham - all played from an enormous boombox
  • Clothing: Leg warmers, sweat bands, Dolphin shorts, stirrup pants, big earrings, Members Only jackets, huge shoulder pads, men's 3-piece suits, power suspenders, Ray Ban aviator sunglasses, Jelly shoes, anything preppie
  • Hair: Big, permed, layered or mulleted; big mustaches and the unshaven-look facial stubble popularized by Don Johnson on Miami Vice
  • Movies: Ordinary People, Charriots of Fire, Rain Man, E.T., Indiana Jones, Flashdance, Dirty Dancing, The Karate Kid, Wall Street, Topgun, Ghost Busters
  • TV:  MacGyver, Miami Vice, Magnum PI, The Cosby Show, Seinfeld, Dallas
  • Technology: The internet, Nintendo, personal computers, VCR's, Walkman, Delorean
  • Politics & economics: Reaganomics, Trickle Down theory, Laffer curve, yuppies, The war on Drugs, Ferdinand Marcos flees Philippines (and Emelda brings her shoes), Black Monday
  • World events: Fall of the Berlin Wall, Tiananmen square, Soviet-Afghan war, Mt. St. Helen erupts, AID's, Hole in the ozone layer discovered, Sally Ride, Iran Contra scandal, Exon Valdez
  • Popular culture: Rubik's cube, Cabbage Patch kids, PG-13 movies

Chicken Marbella | Something New For Dinner

The 80's was a big decade for me. I graduated from college, went to grad school, got married, had my first two children, and I learned to cook Chicken Marbella. Wow, that was a lot in 10 years. To Lauren and Ryan, my children born in the 80's this recipe post is for you!

What were you doing in the 80's?


Chicken Marbella

This iconic dinner-party dish of the 80’s is as good as ever and easy enough for a week-night meal. Assemble the day before so it can marinate overnight.

  • Author: Something New For Dinner
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 60 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hours 20 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x


  • 1 head of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup of oregano
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground 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 plus some of their juice
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, divided
  • 3 pounds of skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs (12 thighs)
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley or cilantro


  1. Mix first 9 ingredients and 1/2 cup brown sugar together in a large bowl. Add chicken and use your hands to combine so the chicken is thoroughly coated. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Take the chicken out of the fridge half an hour before you plan to cook it and allow it to come to room temperature. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spread chicken, prunes, olives and marinate in a baking dish. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar over chicken. Pour wine around the chicken pieces. Bake for 50 minutes. Remove chicken, prunes and olives from the pan and garnish with chopped parsley or cilantro.

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