Being a child of the 80’s, I remember one-pot meals, otherwise, known as the “casserole” very well. These wonders that our mother put down in front of us, usually contained a miss mash of ingredients. While they usually came out of the oven, all golden and bubbly, once the serving spoon was plunged into the dish, the appearance turned saucy, and at times a mystery as to what might lurk at the bottom of the dish. I was not a fan.
One particular meal, where a one-pot dish was served, sticks to my childhood food memories, like a sore thumb, or should I say, a fork gauging me in the stomach. My mother brought to the table, a heated meal, that my aunt had dropped off for us to enjoy. Even, before she opened the oven door, the smell of soured cabbage was fumigating the house. I knew this would not be good. The white dish was filled with rice, some sort of ground meat, and what was suppose to be sauerkraut. The smell was god-awful as was the texture. My sister and I had to sit there, and finish every last bite. We squirmed in our seats, begging not to have to eat it, tears trickling down our cheeks onto the plate of mush.
I am sure it was that meal that tarnished me for ever enjoying a one-pot meal until the last few years. From that moment on, every time someone mentioned making a casserole for a meal, I gently declined the dinner invite, or I would poke around the plate, eating a little of this and a little of that. I am not a picky eater, and am sure they were all lovely meals; I just could not get past that grim evening many years ago.
Once I attempted to make a one-pot meal at home, I realized, it was not all that bad. Since, I have become a big fan of one-pot meals, and casserole dishes. Some recipes are quick and easy, while others are meant to be long and slow. I particularly enjoy making the long and slow recipes. Braising meals with savory herbs and filling veggies really create a heartfelt meal.
One of my favorite one-pot meals is one that our friend Evelyn makes. It is called Chicken Marabella. Chicken is marinated with a mixture of prunes, olives, and fresh herbs, and then baked. I remember the first time I had it, as I was very concerned (was probably still in my hating stage of one-pot meals) that it had prunes stirred throughout the dish. It smelled wonderful, and I was completely put at ease, as I dove into the dish. With every bite, I become more intoxicated by this dish. It was exotic, flavorful and comforting.
Since that evening, I have added my own spin to Evelyn’s recipe; by slowing braising the ingredients, long and slow. As well, I have added fresh Meyer lemon and a hint of rosemary, both are savory compliments to the salty olives and capers, and the sweet prunes. The finished dish reminds me of a tagine, and it takes me away to a far-away land with every bite. I like to serve this one-pot meal with a big bowl of herbed couscous.
Chicken Marabella (Revised)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup prunes
- 1/4 cup capers
- 1/4 cup olives
- 3 bay leaves
- 6 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 meyer lemon, quartered
- 5 springs oregano
- 3 springs rosemary
- 4 chicken legs and thighs
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- handful parsley
- Combine all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl; toss gently with your clean hands, to mix well. Marinate 24 hours.
- After marinating, put everything into a dutch oven.
- Heat the oven to 325.
- Pour in the wine, and sprinkle the brown sugar over the top of the chicken. Slide the dutch oven into the heated oven. Cook for 30 minutes, and then cover with the lid. Continue cooking for 1 1/2 hours.
- Remove from the oven, and let set for 10 minutes. Stir in the parsley. Serve. Eat.
All photos styled and photographed by Denise Woodward.
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