Chef Yotam Ottolenghi’s Chicken Marbella With Dates, Olives, and Capers

Chicken Marbella
Chicken Marbella  Jonathan Lovekin

Chicken Marbella is a riches-to-rags story. The dish—chicken legs roasted with prunes, brown sugar, capers, olives, and oregano—was born in 1977 in the rarefied precincts of Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

From there it spread to the heartland, becoming a dinner party fixture and catering staple. You probably haven’t had it since your second cousin’s wedding in the Kansas City suburbs in 1989.

But in the hands of Yotam Ottolenghi, chicken Marbella is something else entirely—a crispy, salty, sweet, one-pan entree certain to be in steady rotation through the winter. In his easygoing new cookbook, Ottolenghi Simple, the celebrated London chef swaps the prunes and sugar for pitted dates and date molasses, reflecting his Israeli roots. In the oven they caramelize with the chicken, creating little grenades of sweetness offset by briny olives and capers and tangy vinegar.

“It’s everything I want from a dish,” Ottolenghi says. “It’s comforting and simple but really delivers in terms of flavor.”

Cook time

50 min.

  • 8 bone-in chicken leg-thigh combos, skin scored a few times
  • 5 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3⁄4 cup fresh oregano leaves, plus extra to serve
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup pitted green olives
  • 6 tbsp capers (plus 2 tbsp of their brine)
  • 16 dates, pitted and quartered lengthwise
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1⁄2 cup white wine
  • 1 tbsp date molasses (or standard molasses)
Place chicken in a large nonreactive bowl and add the remaining ingredients except the wine and molasses. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper and gently mix together. Cover and marinate in fridge for 8 hours, as long as 2 days.
Heat oven to 400°F. Place chicken legs and marinade in a baking pan. Whisk together wine and molasses and pour over meat.
Place in oven and cook 50 minutes, basting 2 or 3 times, until chicken is golden brown and cooked through.
Remove from oven, transfer everything to a large platter, sprinkle with oregano, and serve.