Friday, October 14, 2011

THE MARBELLA RESCUE PLAN

I made Silver Palate’s Chicken Marbella for the Jewish holidays. For those of you who may be unfamiliar, The Silver Palate was THE epicurean bible of the 1980s and 1990s, and Chicken Marbella, its Genesis –the first main dish caterer/author team Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins ever served. As a rule, Silver Palate applies simple cooking techniques, but demands roughly 100 ingredients per dish. True to form, Chicken Marbella involves marinating chicken in vinegar, oil, prunes, olives, capers, bay leaves, and a pile of oregano. Then you bake it in white wine and brown sugar.

It’s totally dated (or pruned?), but I don’t care. I love it. As I have recently learned, so do several of my cooking cohorts.

The one thing about Chicken Marbella, is that you get stuck with a ton of leftover gravy. For days after our lovely meal, the Tupperware container stared at me accusingly from the fridge, brimming with gravy, taunting: “Wasted food, untapped cooking potential…Food waster!!” I didn't know how to respond.

Until this week, I came up with the lightning-bolt idea of using the Marbella gravy as a fish marinade. This would not be some lame recycling deal…where my family sits down to dinner only to find the same tired looking prunes, olives and capers. Oh no! “Not me! I never lost control.” (Can you name that Nirvana song?) Instead I got out the blender, and whirled the bejeezus out of the gravy. At first the results were a bit gloppy. I added more white wine and vinegar, until it was a beautiful smooth, shimmery brown liquid.

Then I poured half the new concoction over halibut, and let it marinate for an hour. After sautéeing the fish on either side for 4 minutes, I put it in a small Dutch oven over cooked rice and broccoli. I poured the rest of the marinade on the top and baked it at 350 for 15 minutes. Delighted, I may have inadvertently broken my arm patting myself on the back. One dish meal. Stouffers has nothing on me.

Well, not exactly. Turns out, I needed to bake it for at least 30 minutes longer. I stuffed the Dutch oven too tightly with food, preventing anything from heating correctly. Alas, I would recommend simply baking the fish alone for 20 minutes. It’s not as compact as my original fantasy of a one-dish meal, but certainly a great meal nonetheless.

CH ICKEN MARBELLA MARINADE

Obviously, I started by making Chicken Marbella. This is not a particularly direct route. For those starting from scratch, here’s an idea. If you try it, please let me know how it works. We’ll call it collective cooking.

Ingredients:

6 garlic cloves, pureed

1 Tbsp oregano

Salt and pepper to taste

¼ cup red wine vinegar

¼ cup olive oil

¼ cup white wine

¼ cup olives (pitted)

½ cup prunes (pitted)

¼ cup capers with juice

¼ cup brown sugar

1 lb Halibut

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place all ingredients but fish in a Dutch oven with cover. Let cook for about 1 hour or until ingredients are well blended and soft. (Sort of like tsimmes)
  3. After allowing mixture to cool for 10 minutes, place in blender. Puree until you’ve got a smooth, brown sauce. Add extra wine if necessary.
  4. Pour half of marinade over washed fish. Let sit for an hour.
  5. Heat up frying pan, and sear fish on either side for 4 minutes on each side.
  6. Place fish in Dutch oven. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes. Until fish is opaque.
  7. Serve over rice with remaining marinade served on top, as a sauce.

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