Some Thoughts on Chicken Marbella

Not me in front of the Silver Palate in New York City.

Though it wasn’t a Thursday last night’s dinner was a throwback! A throwback to the early 1980s and the glory days of The Silver Palate Cookbook. Now rest easy faithful reader, this is not one of those recipe sites where I will tell you about my first visit to New York as a mere child in 1981 – a stretch of anyone’s imagination at best. And about how I wandered aimless down 73rd until a tantalizing smell led me to press my nose against the window of a shop at Columbus Circle and I caught my first glimpse of Chicken Marbella. How the kindly owner took pity on my youth and offered me a taste. How I was immediately taken out of myself and …. Oh wait a minute. Sorry, if you want the recipe for last night’s main just: Go to recipe.

Last night was a throwback to dinner parties given and attended in those bygone years of such events. We were served or ourselves served this savoury-sweet-acidy-fruity dish on more (!) than one occasion. It was easy to prepare in advance! It was trendy! It was easy to prepare in advance! It was what sophisticated New Yorkers picked up at the end of the work day as they headed home to their smart flats on the Upper West side. And it was easy to prepare in advance!

The last time I had made it was in Warsaw in 1998 when our Ambassador came to dinner. By then it was old hat and our military attache’s wife, who was also there, felt the need to mention it. Ask if she was ever invited back? After more than 24 years a brief mention of it in Sunday’s New York Times and a package of chicken thighs that had to be used made me decided to give it a try. As I measured out the capers, prunes, olives and minced 6 cloves of garlic (!) I begin to think of a few other food trends that I recall from my glory (?) days of bon vivantery.

Does anyone else remember the fondue era? There was cheese fondue, meat (oil) fondue, Chinese (broth) fondue and chocolate fondue. Everyone had a fondue pot! A fondue pot? Try three or four! Not only because you needed a separate one for each type but because you could be guaranteed one would be presented as a housewarming/birthday/Christmas gift at some point in the year. Sets of colour-coded forks would accompanying them often with a packet of Sterno. Sterno was no longer just the favourite of a certain class of drinker but was seen in respectable suburban homes throughout North America. Damn it we were hip, we were cutting culinary edge, almost European we were so damned sophisticated. And it was easy to prepare in advance if you could remember what cheese melted best and didn’t use Kraft Processed Cheese Food.

But the height of sophistication had to be the quiche phase. I mean how French was that? And the variety was endless and it covered most of the food groups: dairy, vegetables, chicken, pork, sea food, even blueberries or plums – though at that point without the crust and it morphed into clafoutis. It became a favourite at breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner. And very few restaurants or cafes didn’t have at least one or two varieties on their chalk board menu. It was easy to prepare: pie crust, eggs, milk/cream, seasonings, fillers of your choice. Deceptively easy I might add – I can only think of one or two quiches I’ve made that really hit the mark – one being a lobster quiche I made last year.

Not a picture of last night’s dinner but from the Internet. I used bone-in, skinless chicken thighs. And because it was not for a dinner party I cut the recipe in half.

So after measuring, marinating and meandering down Memory Lane how did it turn out, asks my faithful reader. Excellent! A recipe to be repeated and maybe even used at a dinner party should such things ever be reinstituted. It was tasty, had an interesting combination of flavours, and even better it can be done in advance! (Oh and yes that marinating overnight is necessary don’t skit it!)

Is there any food trend that you recall – fondly or with a shudder – from your glory entertaining days of yore? If so do tell me about it in the comment section.

The word for January 11th is:
Trend /trend/: [1. noun 2. verb]
1.1 A general direction in which something is developing or changing
1.2 A fashion.
2.1 To change or develop in a general direction.
2.2 To be the subject of many posts on a social media website within a short period of time.
Old English trendan ‘revolve, rotate’, of Germanic origin; compare with trundle. The verb sense ‘turn in a specified direction’ dates from the late 16th century, and gave rise to the figurative use ‘develop in a general direction’ in the mid 19th century, a development paralleled in the noun.

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