Wednesday, September 2, 2009

In Memoriam

Award-winning cookbook author and chef Sheila Lukins passed away on Sunday in her home in Manhattan. Sheila Lukins and her Silver Palate food shop changed the way Americans ate in the early 1980's.

In 1979, Patricia Wells...called it a "tiny food shop with big ideas," referring to it's handmade zucchini pickles and blueberry preserves, made from local produce whenever possible.

Julia Moskin writes in the New York Times, "From a 156-square-foot shop and kitchen at Columbus Avenue and 73rd Street, the women and their recipes-Mediterranean chicken salad, curried butternut squash soup, spicy carrot cake-intrigued, and then guided, the increasingly adventurous palates of New Yorkers."

I have been in possession of my treasured, dog-eared Silver Palate Cookbook for over ten years and have made many a recipe, most of which have become family favorites. From the ginger candied carrots, the pasta puttanesca, beef carbonnade, to my all time favorite, chicken marbella.

The distinctive colors and flavors of chicken marbella include olives, capers and prunes (yes, prunes). It's good hot or at room temperature. The overnight marination is essential to the moistness of the finished product: the chicken keeps and even improves over several days of refrigeration. The recipe below is directly from the cookbook and gives quantities to serve 10-12, but can be successfully divided to make a smaller amount if you wish.

Julia Moskin ended the article saying "when Sheila Lukins and Julee Rosso wrote The Silver Palate Cookbook, they offered home cooks a fresh alternative for entertaining. The book's big, sophisticated flavors were produced from accessible ingredients and modest cooking skills, not from French techniques or canned creamed soups. Editors admonished the authors for their exuberant seasoning style. 'No, girls, no,' a copy editor wrote on one recipe. 'No one puts 25 cloves of garlic in ratatouille!' The authors retested the recipe and kept it."

I love that.

So in honor of Sheila here is her famous chicken marbella.



Chicken Marbella
from the Silver Palate Cookbook

4 chicken, 2 1/2 pounds each, quartered
1 head of garlic, peeled and finely puréed
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 caper with a bit of juice
6 bay leaves
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup 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°F.

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 sauce boat.

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