chicken marbella and warm bread salad

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When the quarantine started, our routines were abruptly halted. We couldn’t go anywhere because of the stay-at-home order. With nowhere to go, any gastronomic exploration was limited to my kitchen. I looked back over my calendar. On the day the quarantine started, March 26, I made green rice noodles with pesto. We continued into April, there was a Hangzhou sweet and sour pork, another time cubanos, escovitch fish, a simple carbonara, steamed egg custard, lasagna, then into May: a sweet chili-glazed salmon fillet in a pan, hamburgers, callaloo chicken roulade, Shanghai-style scallion noodles with ground pork. And now, after 52 days, the lockdown is finally over. To celebrate the end of #bangkokshutdown, a saucy-salty-sweet Chicken Marbella and a warm bread salad to go with it. 

Chicken Marbella (adapted from Ina Garten’s recipe)
Thawing time: 12 hours in the refrigerator to dry out the skin
Marinating time: 12 hours
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

For the marinade:
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
1 cup large pitted prunes, each cut into 3 large chunks
1/2 cup pitted green olives
1/4 cup capers with juice
2 medium bay leaves
3 tablespoons fried garlic (6-8 large cloves garlic minced)
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon white pepper

For the chicken:
1 whole chicken
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup white rum (or dry white wine)

At least 24 hours before cooking the chicken, dry the chicken out in the refrigerator. Put it on a baking tray lined with paper towels and cover it with a clean kitchen towel. Drying the chicken out will crisp up the chicken skin.

At least 12 hours before cooking the chicken spatchcock or butterfly the chicken. Turn the chicken on its breast and starting from the tail, cut out the backbone with a pair of kitchen shears. Cut off the wing tips. Turn the chicken over and press down on the breastbone until you hear it crack. Wipe the chicken dry inside and out.

Cook’s Note: Save the backbone and wingtips to make chicken soup stock.

Prepare the marinade in a medium bowl. Put the chicken in a 9×13 inch pan. Rub marinade all over the chicken, making sure to coat the inside as well. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and refrigerate.

Heat oven to 350˚F/175˚C.

When you are ready to roast the chicken, combine brown sugar, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Sprinkle it all over the chicken skin. Pour the rum or wine around the chicken, but not on it. Roast for 30-35 minutes or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 145˚F. Remove from oven and let rest 10-15 minutes. Don’t turn off the oven. You will need it to make the bread salad.

Warm Bread Salad (adapted from NY Times Cooking)

2 tablespoons dried cranberries
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
1/4 cup cashew nuts
6 oz stale bread
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon
1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, plus more if desired
Salt
Coarsely ground black pepper
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onions
6 tablespoons warm water, divided
4 cups chopped romaine lettuce leaves
Olive oil spray

Put dried cranberries in a small bowl and pour over the 2 tablespoons vinegar and 2 tablespoons warm water. Set aside.

Slice bread into chunks. Spray with olive oil and toss. Broil or toast in a large skillet until the edges of the bread blacken. Remove to a large bowl.

Whisk 1/4 cup olive oil with 1 1/2 tablespoons vinegar. Taste. Add more vinegar if desired. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Drizzle 1 1/2 tablespoons of the vinaigrette over the bread chunks and toss.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet. Add garlic and onions and cook, stirring, over low heat, until the garlic is fragrant and the onions are wilted, about 30 seconds. Scrape the garlic mixture onto the bread chunks and combine. Drain cranberries and add to the bread. Add cashews and stir. Drizzle bread mixture with 4 tablespoons water and mix. Taste a bit of bread. Add more vinegar, salt and pepper, if needed. Toss well and set aside.

After the chicken is done, take it out of the oven and raise the heat to 450˚F/200˚C. Spread the bread mixture on a baking sheet and put it in the oven. Off the heat. Let the bread mixture warm for 15 minutes then scrape it into a serving bowl with the lettuce and the remaining vinaigrette. Toss to combine. Serve warm with chicken.

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