18 December 2012

Cranberry Christmas: Cranberry & Caper Chicken

Christmas food should be no stress, full of flavour, have lots of colour and be easy to share. The one dish that comes to mind when I think of this is 'Chicken Marbella' from the never fail Silver Palate Cookbook, a cookbook must for every kitchen. The beauty of this recipe lies in both its simplicity in preparing and the sublime combination of sweet prunes, salty capers, tangy green olives and aromatic oregano. It looks and tastes sensational. Oh, and did I mention all you do is stick the majority of the ingredients on the chicken to marinate overnight, then pop it in the oven with a sprinkle of brown sugar and a splash of white wine? Entertaining does not get easier. 
Cranberries may seem like an odd choice for an Australian to focus on who has no access to fresh cranberries but they have become so entwined with the idea of Christmas food and they bring such a beautiful hue to cooking that this week it's all about the Cranberry for me. I have modified the Chicken Marbella recipe to make it into an easy Christmas dinner using dried cranberries and cranberry sauce in the marinade, I then cut down on the amount of brown sugar as the sauce brought its own sweetness. The result was absolutely delicious, the dried cranberries hydrated in the juice and made sweet, tart pockets of flavour, the perfect foil for the capers and olives. It presents beautifully as the centrepiece for Christmas dinner - pieces of glossy, saucy chicken studded with pale red berries and green capers, olives and parsley - Christmas food personified.

I served this with a simple mix of salad greens, avocado and pomegranate seeds, drizzled with olive oil, red wine vinegar and pomegranate molasses.
You can easily substitute turkey for chicken in this dish. I prefer chicken to turkey but this has more to do with my fear of serving guests dry turkey, a lingering taste of sawdust from boarding school Christmas dinners. The overnight marinade will make a huge difference to the moisture content of the bird, but as the turkey pieces are significantly larger they need longer in the over to cook right to the bone. Keep a close eye on the turkey, basting regularly and make sure you let it rest for at least 20 minutes out of the oven after cooking so lock in the juices.  
Ingredients (for 4 people):
  • 1.5 kilos chicken pieces (thigh cutlets, drumsticks), or turkey
Marinade (day before):
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup green olives
  • 1/4 cup capers, plus 1 tablespoon of the caper brine
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup cranberry sauce
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For cooking:
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, loosely packed
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
To serve:
  • Italian flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

  1. Combine all marinade ingredients in a large non-reactive mixing bowl (or even easier, a large snap lock bag), add chicken pieces and toss to coat well, marinate in the fridge overnight - the success of this recipe depends on the overnight marinating, you want the flavour to penetrate into the meat of the chicken or turkey, and marinating will help keep the meat moist! 
  2. The next evening, preheat oven to 180˚C (350˚F)
  3. Place marinated chicken pieces into a large baking tray, keeping them in a single layer and just touching each other, pour over any remaining marinade
  4. evenly sprinkle the pieces with the brown sugar then pour the white wine around the tray
  5. bake for approximately 50 minutes or until juices run clear (don't over cook or they will be dry),  regularly spoon the juices over the chicken pieces as they cook
  6. remove the meat from the tray and place on a serving plate, letting the meat rest for 15 minutes before serving
  7. spoon over the olives, capers and cranberries along with a good slosh of the pan juices
  8. sprinkle with the chopped parsley and serve! 

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