The 'Silver Palate Cookbook' by Sheila Lukins and Julee Rosso was published in 1979 and sold a record-breaking 250,000 copies in its first year (it went on to sell more than 2.5 million copies). It epitomized a burgeoning Manhattan foodie culture that was both sophisticated and fun emphasizing zesty dinner party fare. Seemingly overnight, Americans discovered "exotic" ingredients like arugula and balsamic vinegar.
I didn't cook from 'The Silver Palate' until the early 1990s when I was finishing college and then looking for a job in New York City. My little studio sublet near Central Park happened to be located in the heart of the authors' Upper West Side stomping ground. Their cottage-y gourmet food shop (which was way out of my budget) was right around the corner.
One steamy August afternoon, I cooked up a huge batch of Chicken Marbella in my miniscule galley kitchen for an evening picnic I was planning for my then-boyfriend's twenty-second birthday party. Friends helped lug Tupperware containers, contraband beer, a Glazed Lemon Cake, and a boom box into the park. While the blazing sunset dimmed to indigo twilight, we feasted on a grassy slope overlooking the grand Bethesda Fountain. I don't recall that we had to cart out many leftovers.
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All recipes adapted from 'The Silver Palate Cookbook'.
I was tempted to tweak this recipe by browning the chicken but held back and discovered it was unnecessary and so much easier to just throw everything into the pan. I did cut the recipe back by about two-thirds-the original calls for 4 whole chickens! The only ingredient swap I made is to use bone-in chicken thighs instead of mixed parts which eliminates the need to marinate overnight since they cook evenly and stay juicy.Ingredients
8-10 bone-in chicken thighs
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 plump cloves of garlic, peeled and finely pureed
2 tablespoons dried oregano
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup pitted prunes
1/4 cup pitted Spanish green olives2 tablespoons jarred capers with a bit of juice
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup white wine
2 tablespoons Italian parsley or cilantro finely chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, sprinkle chicken with coarse salt and pepper and combine with garlic, oregano, vinegar, olive oil, prunes, olives, capers and juice, and bay leaves. Let marinate while oven pre-heats.
Arrange chicken in a single layer in a large, shallow baking pans and spoon marinade over it evenly. Sprinkle chicken pieces with brown sugar and pour white wine around them.
Bake for 45-50 minutes. Chicken is done when thighs yield clear yellow juice (rather than pink) when pricked with a fork.
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 sauceboat. Serve with plain couscous or crusty bread.
Arugula Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette
'The Silver Palate Cookbook' helped put flavored vinegars on the map. Though there has been a foodie backlash against balsamic, this vinaigrette is super versatile and tangy but light on simple salads. Arugula's sharp bite is a nice counterpoint to the sweet richness of Chicken Marbella. Here's an indispensible trick from Bobby Flay: salt and pepper your salad after tossing with dressing, the seasonings will be more assertive.Ingredients
1 large garlic clove, lightly smashed and peeled
1 tablespoon prepared Dijon-style mustard
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (more if you like a sharper flavor)
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon anchovy paste or finely chopped anchovy fillet (optional)
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
This recipe yields more than a cup of dressing, store extra in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Glazed Lemon Cake
Due to my habit of playing fast and loose with measurements, I'm not much of a baker, but this cake is foolproof. It's the perfect balance of sweet and tart and both children and grown-ups love it. Served with lemon, vanilla, or strawberry ice cream, it makes a simple, pretty birthday cake. The original icing recipe made a huge amount of glaze, so I've halved it.
1/2 pound (2 sticks) sweet butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs (at room temperature)
3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 tightly packed tablespoons grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
(lemon icing recipe follows)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 10-inch tube pan. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, blending well after each addition.
Sift together flour, baking soda and salt. Mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients alternatively with buttermilk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Add lemon zest and juice.
Pour batter into prepared tube pan. Set on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 1 hour and 5 minutes, or until cake pulls away from side of pan and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool cake in the pan, set on a rack, for 10-15 minutes, then gently separate top edge of cake from pan all the way around. Invert onto a cake stand or plate, and spread immediately with the icing while cake is still warm. When cake cools, gently clean excess icing from around the bottom.Lemon Icing
½ pound confectioners' sugar (about one cup or half a box)
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) sweet butter, softened
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
Cream butter and sugar thoroughly. Mix in lemon juice and zest; spread on warm cake.