Caramelized Chicken with Green Olives and Prunes Recipe

I normally host a big birthday bash every year, or at least that’s what I’ve done the past four summers, inviting friends, old and new, to celebrate the fact that it is late July and the weather is nice and Paris is empty and I’m a year wiser.

But this time, no.

I was a little bummed to break from this young tradition, for I really do enjoy these parties, but the past few months have been a whirlwind, I feel I haven’t had a moment to stop and smell the strawberries, and I am in dire need of a vacation, so the last thing I wanted to do was pile another big project onto my plate. Just the thought of it made me want to go and hide under heaps of shoes in the back of our walk-in closet, which, you may be interested to learn, the French call le dressing.

But it wouldn’t be quite right to bid the previous year adieu without some sort of gathering, so I decided I would still cook dinner for the small circle of my closest friends, sticking mostly to tried-and-true, make-ahead recipes.

You marinate chicken thighs with green olives and prunes, and simply bake the whole thing until it is nicely glazed and browned with crusty bits on the outside, but still moist and tender at heart.

The evening opened on glasses of fine sangria, made with a mix I’d recently been given as a present — it consists in flavored sugar and dried fruits that you marinate in red wine overnight, and I merely added frozen melon balls in lieu of ice cubes. With that we nibbled on slices of saucisson from Savoie, and little toasts spread with either my sardine and harissa mousse or my neighbor Stephan’s eggplant caviar, which I expressly request from him each year.

We then moved on to a buffet-like spread that included my red quinoa salad, made this time with mixed roasted vegetables (tomatoes, red bell peppers, zucchini, and onions) and toasted pistachios; Stephan’s green salad with shrimp and honey vinaigrette; my attempt at a savory cheesecake, which needs more work before I can decently share a recipe; and caramelized chicken thighs.

The latter is a dish that Pascale made for me eons ago (okay, two years). I’d kept the recipe in my files under the name Le Poulet d’Alisa, as Pascale had rechristened it in honor of the mutual friend who had given it to her in the first place. It originated in fact as the Silver Palate‘s Chicken Marbella, but you can trust three successive cooks to make it shift a bit from the original.

The recipe has you marinate chicken thighs with green olives and prunes until the next day, when you simply bake the whole thing, basting the meat often, until it is nicely glazed and browned with crusty bits on the outside, but still moist and tender at heart.

Easier than pie and highly flavorful with its sweet and briny Mediterranean accents, the dish went down very well with our guests. I just wish I hadn’t completely forgotten the final sprinkling of cilantro and toasted almonds. Oh well, that just went into the leftovers salad for lunch the next day.

And for dessert, I had baked one of my favorite cakes in the whole cake world, the blueberry coffee cake, to which I’d added a layer of pecans — toasted, roughly chopped, and tossed with a little maple syrup. We had it with my friend Marie-Laure’s fruit salad, another item without which my birthday wouldn’t quite be my birthday.

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Caramelized Chicken with Green Olives and Prunes Recipe

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 12 hours

Serves 10 to 12.

Caramelized Chicken with Green Olives and Prunes Recipe


  • 8 free-range chicken legs (thigh + drumstick, about 3kg or 6 1/2 pounds total), cut in two at the joint
  • 130g (3/4 cup) green olives
  • 300g (10 oz) pitted prunes, roughly chopped (I use kitchen shears)
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed (I used a rounded teaspoon organic garlic paste)
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup sherry vinegar (vinaigre de xérès in French)
  • 3 rounded tablespoons dried oregano (I used organic oregano from Crete)
  • Fine sea salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • the leaves from 1 small bunch fresh cilantro (flat-leaf parsley can be substituted)
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted


  1. Start the recipe the night before. In a large salad bowl, combine the chicken, olives, prunes, garlic, and bay leaves. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, and oregano. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  2. Pour over the chicken, and combine until the marinade coats the chicken thoroughly; it works immeasurably better if you use your hands. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  3. Remove from the refrigerator an hour before baking. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Place the chicken in a baking dish large enough to accommodate it in a single layer (I had to use two).
  4. Pour the remaining marinade (and any remaining solids) over the chicken, sprinkle with the sugar, and add the white wine. Place in the oven and bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hour, basting and flipping the thighs every 20 minutes or so, until the juices run clear, the meat is caramelized, and your boyfriend says that really, that chicken smell is torture.
  5. Sprinkle with cilantro and almonds, and serve.
  • Happy birthday Clotilde, I’ve been a visitor for less than a year so this is my first time sending birthday wishes. It sounds like you managed a few birthday traditions despite the pared down celebrations. Best wishes for the (wiser) year ahead.

  • It looks delicious!!! I have to try it! I wish you a very happy birthday.

  • caroline

    I’m a little unclear on how the chicken gets caramelized– is it the sugar from the prunes that does it?

    Thank you for reminding me of the blueberry cake. I’d seen it on your site before, and now that blueberries are in season I must make it!

  • Sherry

    Happy Birthday – I love that chicken dish. I family friend of ours would make each July 4th. My family loved it so much that my mother went and got the Silver Palate cookbook!

  • Adele

    Happy Birthday, Clotilde, and many happy returns of the day. May your upcoming year be filled with health and happiness!!

    Chicken Marebella is one of my favorite large-crowd dishes, and I love the interplay of the olives and the prunes. I usually make the Silver Palate version, with white wine and brown sugar, but I love the idea of sherry vinegar as a substitute.

  • Well, I know what I’m having for dinner this weekend. Thank you!

  • Looks beautiful Clotilde! I never would have guessed that this caramelized chicken marinade was made from green olives and prunes! I hope you had a wonderful (and unstressful) birthday. Take a vacation!

  • Joyeux anniversaire Clotilde! I love this recipe, I’ve been making it for years – even once for a dinner for 50 people. Almonds and cilantro sound like a great addition.

  • I was happy to hear you on Martha Stewart Radio this morning. I’ve been here quite a few times, and happy that you are popping up all over America. This chicken looks superb; I will probably try it this weekend.

    Wish I had your life…

  • rainey

    Happy Birthday! I would imagine there’s much to celebrate from the past year and I hope the coming year will offer even more. ;>

  • saskia

    Chère clothilde,
    Je lis ton blog depuis des années, avec grand plaisir, mais c’est mon premier commentaire : je suis en effet stupéfaite de retrouver citée ici la recette de “mon” (hemhem) Walnut-Coffeecake, que j’ai découpée en 1987 ou 88 dans le “Toronto Star”, et à laquelle je tiens comme à la prunelle de mes yeux .
    Puis-je te demander d’où tu tiens la tienne ? Ca m’amuse vraiment beaucoup !
    Excellent anniversaire, et je te souhaite, allez, soyons fous, un mois d’aout ensoleillé !!

  • Eva

    Bon anniversaire, Clotilde!

    I’m enjoying your cookbook very much. You may be pleased to know that you greatly inspired my best friend, whom I sent (in my place) to your signing at Cody’s in Berkeley — and not just because he found you very attractive! He even bought a book for himself!

  • All – Thank you for the birthday wishes!

    Caroline – The meat caramelizes thanks to the sugar, the sugar in the prunes, and that in the sherry vinegar.

    Adele – I do use white wine to bake the chicken — the sherry vinegar only comes as a substitute for the red wine vinegar.

    Saskia – Funny story! That coffee cake is derived from a recipe called Sour Cream Coffee Cake (with walnuts and cinnamon but no blueberries, and a lot more sugar) that someone had posted in 2003 on a cooking forum I used to frequent. I don’t know where that person got it, perhaps the Toronto Star indeed! I’ve used the basic batter for lots of variations, and it’s always a success.

  • gingerpale

    I can’t believe it–a post by Clotilde, about her own birthday party, and NO mention of chocolate!!

  • Libby

    Happy Birthday Clotilde!

    I’ve been a lurker for a little while. I thought this would be a good time to leave you a comment.

    I found you while researching Paris in preparation for my wedding anniversary (10th!) trip to your fair city this past March. Paris stole my heart. You are so lucky to live there!

    Anyway, I’ve always loved cooking, specially baking. Your recipes are fantastic (I am now hopelessly addicted to your carrot salad) and your writing delightful. I Love your blog!

  • Linda

    Happy Birthday Clotilde!!And thank you for your wonderful book – I’m American but I ordered the British version because I love metric measurements.As for your Birthday Chicken – I only have to say the words “Chicken Marbella” and my husband will swoon! It lends itself to one’s own likes – I use no control with the garlic, and I found that browning seasoned chicken before marinating bakes up dark & crispy, even with skin removed for my weight conscious friends. Many Happy Returns of the Day, Clotilde.

  • Another wonderful recipe! To thank you, I’ve “schmoozed” your blog! You can read about what it means in my latest post.

  • est

    this chicken looks really yummy, I am generally intimidated to cook meat but your picture just made me wanna try!

  • Rachel

    Happy birthday from a fellow Leo (just 11 days younger than you)! Your party sounds lovely and I know just what you mean about wanting a low-key one. Although I’m not likely ever to use your chicken recipe (unless you think it would work with extra firm tofu?? the marinade sounds so good it seems a real shame to give it a miss) I love the idea of sangria with melon ice cubes and can’t wait to try it!

  • doug didier

    >>>I’m a little unclear on how the chicken gets caramelized– is it the sugar from the prunes that does it?

    i believe the marinade should have a little brown sugar..

    have enjoyed the cookbook.. have given copies to three of our friends.. so far..


  • B

    I love this idea – its the perfect make ahead (and make on the cheap) chicken dish. I’m slowly being converted to the superiority of chicken thighs over chicken breasts. delish!


  • I love that you have a grand birthday party most years. I only had a couple of parties as a child, so I can’t wait to entertain on my own for my birthday.

  • Happy Birthday! This is indeed a day worthy of celebration!

  • bon anniversaire Clotilde!
    une bise depuis San Francisco ou il a fait un peu frais avec un gros ‘fog’ en ce 1er aout mais ou l’on compense avec la merveilleuse recette de ‘boeuf bourguignon’ de ton livre. un re-gal :)
    a bientot!

  • Happy birthday!!!
    Best wishes for another wonderful year.

  • Happy (late) birthday, Clotilde!

  • Happy Birthday! We have a tradition of throwing a big bash with food for my partners birthday. Then he takes me somewhere fancy for mine – it’s perfect!

  • Happy happy brithday! :) That sounds like a lovely gathering you had…and the chicken does sound amazingly delicious!

  • m

    Happy birthday!

    I don’t know if you have ever written about this, but I would love (and perhaps others would too) if you could speak to how your love of cooking affects the ever-present-on-the-American-mind subject of weight management. I love to cook and would like to continue with trying new recipes etc., but I find that every time I get in the kitchen and start experimenting, my pants become a bit too tight for comfort. What is your secret? I would love to hear your musings on this topic:)

  • saskia

    Thank you for your long answer to my comment. I just checked my precious clipping (which I was too lazy to do yesterday…) and it is indeed called “Sour Cream Coffee cake ” (and does have more sugar) . Now, where did the Toronto Star get it from 20 years ago ?? Ah, if only recipes had better copyrights… ;-)

  • I’ve never thought of combining green olives and prunes together with chicken. It sounds great and I’m out to look for the ingredients.

  • Happy Birthday Clotilde! Your birthday food sounds wonderful and the chicken dish is definitely on my to try list.

  • Happy Birthday Clotilde!! I have made the Chicken Marbella many times. Most recently for my husband’s mother’s 80th birthday party of 20 guests. We had a lovely outdoor sit down dinner on a cool spring day last March. I am going to try your friend’s version. The sprinkling of almonds and cilantro sound like a very nice touch. I am brand new to your blog and enjoy it very much. My husband and our adult children are traveling to France this Oct/Nov to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary so I am checking our your travel tips. Thanks.

  • Happy Birthday Clotilde!

    That looks like a wonderful feast. I love sweet, sticky chicken dishes and this looks like a good one!

  • DF

    Joyeux anniversaire, la belle fille!

    I have been a fan for a long time but just bought your cookbook last night and wrote an appreciation today.
    I will always most appreciate that you are as beautiful as a model but your food is just as beautiful– and delicious.

    Have a great 28.

  • Happy Birthday Clotilde! Celebrating with your closest friends – what could be better? I wish the best for another fabulous year (and I still do hope we get to meet up again someday!)

  • Prem

    Dear Clotilde

    Happy Birthday
    Im South African Indian and came across your book accidently whilst browsing at From there I found your food-blog and what a wonderful find!!!It brings a bit of sunshine into my day!!! I love all things Paris and even though I have not visited the city I plan to do so in the future. I have ordered your book and can’t wait for it to arrive. I have not tried any recipes yet but plan to make the raspberry yogurt cake this weekend. There so much catching up to do – I can’t believe I only stumbled upon your work now!!! Better late than never!
    Thank you so much for your wonderful work and for the opportunity to connect from this side of the world.

  • Happy Birthday Clotilde! It sounds like a lovely evening, and the chicken looks like something everyone should have in their arsenal – I can’t wait to try it!

  • Mister choc

    Happy birthday Clotilde. I printed off the cake recipe. I’ve got to get round to using the blueberries in my freezer which I bought on a whim then wondered what to do with.

  • happy birthday!! it’s mine, too, and i truly hope you enjoy your day and dinner party…

  • rachel

    happy birthday. i made the eggplant caviar from your book last weekend, and it came out slightly bitter, though the texture was beautiful. any ideas why or suggestions for how i can avoid this next time?

  • Rachel – What kind of eggplants did you use? Bitterness can be a problem if you use large, mature eggplants, rather than small, young ones.

  • Thanks. I have a birthday lunch next week and would try the Chicken — it looks great!

  • Tea

    Happy Birthday, Clothilde. I hope you get to enjoy some well earned rest and relaxation!

  • Joyce Howden

    I have read your blog and subscribe to your newsletter, learning a little French here and there. Not enough to read the menu here. This is a wonderful place in our little city.

  • Clotilde – I join all the others in wishing you a fabulous birthday and a fantastic year to follow it. I discovered your blog a little while back, and recently bought your book, which I love. You are so fresh! You bring me much culinary joy. Additionally, you were an inspiration for me to start my own blog this past June. Thank you. Looking forward to much more inspiration…

  • Karen in Denmark

    Hi Clotilde, Thanks for your advice about the chocolate caramel tart – I’ve made it again twice and the caramel is not runny any more as I am using more time to melt it. Also, I tried the blueberry coffee cake this weekend and instead of blueberries I used blackberries. It was delicious!! Thank you and happy birthday.

  • Mister choc

    I made the blueberry coffee cake and noticed there was no coffee in it and was confused. I didn’t have enough yogurt so topped up with milk and I cut down on the blueberries. I also added 1/4 tsp of almond extract. It smelled so gorgeous whilst baking. The blueberries sank to the bottom so I had to serve the cake upsidedown. The making didn’t go well. The result was great and is very popular.

  • Karen – Glad you had better success the second time around!

    Mister Choc – The term “coffee cake” is used for cakes that are great *with* coffee, not coffee-flavored cakes — a little confusing, I admit it. And I imagine the reason your blueberries sank to the bottom is that the batter was a bit thin, due to the use of milk rather than yogurt.

  • joyofcooking

    Spreaden heaven. Sardine spread, yum. I love summer-time fishy spreads. I normally use mackerel (Monoprix now sells it smoked in the fish section) but I will have to try sardines. Last week I spread toasted lardon ficelle from the Grenier du Pain. Smoky fish and bacon, I recommend it. Happy Birthday!

  • Skylines

    Happy belated birthday!

    Long-time lurker, finally courageous enough to post. Just had to thank you for the chicken recipe. I was a bit intimidated at first, but it turned out to be easy enough to put together, despite my lackluster cooking experience :)
    I’m actually about to enjoy a second helping, thanks to my new little toy

    Thanks again, and hope you had a great birthday.

  • Meg

    It’s YOUR birthday and yet WE get a sangria recipe?

    I love this brand of injustice.

    Joyeux anniversaire!

  • Amy

    Joyeux anniversaire Clothilde! A sincere “merci” for the continual inspiration to be found in your fantastic book and blog. I love the photography, and tidbits about all things French! My husband and I enjoyed your lemon butter cookies with coconut gelato last night, hopefully you approve of the combination :)

  • Happy Birthday, Clotilde and many more!

  • M

    Your birthday dinner sounds like it was fabulous. Hope the year brings many more great successes. I baked the blueberry coffee cake last night, and I’m down to one piece this afternoon. It’s absolutely delicious–thanks so much for sharing. (The yogurt makes for such a moist cake. I think it’s the yogurt, anyway. Who knew?!)

  • Linda

    As soon as I looked into your website for the first time & found your birthday recipes I posted a message (Aug.1)Love this blog & it’s my first one.So I signed up for your newsletter -glad I did! Very exciting to know your next manuscript will give us another book before too long!!I’m in Maine right now where blueberries are paractically in the blood and have yet to find a recipe as luscious & packed with those gems as the recipe you posted.Thank you – that was almost too good.

  • ben

    love your blog. I’m especially glad to read your journal in the august of this year as i am looking forward to living in montmartre with my family. (4 members have not made it to europe at all.) If you have any suggestions for a choice splurge restaurant to introduce them to french cuisine that’s available in august, i’d really appreciate it! but many thanks already for your informative and tastefully written blogs (sorry for the pun, but i am very hungry.)


  • Amy

    The chicken looks and sounds delicious! I used to only eat chicken breasts, but lately have been craving drumsticks like crazy. They are just so much more moist and flavorful. I’m going to have to give this recipe a try.

  • Belated B’day Wishes, Clotilde! Its a wonderful dish….I was at Borders last Sunday reading your new book and there is no doubt I am going to buy it!Its so fantastic!

  • Happy Birthday, Clotilde! I will try this chicken, for sure, but I thought you may like to know my trick for covering dishes in the fridge. Rather than use plastic wrap (fiddly, sticks on itself, hard to manage one-handed) I keep a supply of clear plastic shower caps, many of which stretch to cover the largest bowl or dish and can be washed after use and reused.

  • leannlhee

    Will definitely try this. I learned about your blog through your book which I bought recently. We are just fixing our house and will be transferring soon so that means I will be cooking all the meals at home and your site will definitely help me a lot. Thanks so much.

  • paula

    This chicken looks amazing! will definitely try this recipe.

    Though, a little belated, I’m wishing you a very happy, healthy and successful year ahead.

  • Vicky Go

    Belated Happy Birthday!

    Was the recipe for the eggplant caviar ever posted at this site. If it was, may I have the link please?


  • Max

    I’m definitely on the late end of this comment train, but nonetheless: Happy Birthday!! Your chicken recipe went directly into my “must try soon” file. I don’t eat red meat and my boyfriend won’t eat seafood, so I’m always looking for fantastic chicken recipes we can compromise on. Thank you! :)

  • kirsty

    Hi Clothilde,

    I have tried this chicken, but the sherry vinegar made it a bit too sour…can I skip the vinegar?


  • Happy belated birthday Clotilde.

    I was about to wander away after the darling post about your mango ice cream when the picture of that luscious chicken caught my eye. Great photography!

    Also, I had to chime in and say that my mom has been making the same version of stellar sour cream coffee cake for years and it is always the first to go at family gatherings!

    Anyway, wishing you a happy day and a lifetime of happiness, love and success. You are a marvelous cook and an inspiration.

    All the best,

  • leannlhee

    Delicious! My hubby loves this recipe. Thanks for sharing.

  • Rosemary Shew

    I can’t wait to make your birthday chicken. I have a friend that makes the Marbella all of the time. That is all that she makes!

    I will spring this on the next dinner party! I love the changes!

    Now, for the eggplant caviar, or is it a guarded secret?

  • Steffen

    The chicken dish was a hit last night at my dinner party. Even my friend B, who is constantly dieting so that she can fit into designer clothes (that she really can’t afford) ate a double helping. Sadly, I couldn’t find oregano from Crete and had to substitute a miserable supermarket-bought brand instead. As luck would have it though, I have a vacation to Crete in about a month and will be sure to purchase some dried oregano while I’m there. Hopefully, the Stas… I mean, Homeland Security agents won’t confiscate it on my return to the US.

    Happy Birthday!

  • This looks like a great dish full of flavor. Combine that with a sangria, as you mentioned, wow, I can only imagine what it tastes like. I’m going to add this recipe to my “recipe queue”. There are so many wonderful recipes that I want to make some day, so I add them to a list… :)

  • A VERY HAPPY (if late) Bonne Aniversaire Clotilde!
    That chicken looks heavenly.
    There is tons on Cretan Oregano where I live, so that ingrediant is easy to get :)

  • Happy Belated Birthday, Clotide!

    Just a note to thank you for this excellent recipe – one I made last night to stellar results. Except I sort of tweaked it – a lot. When I first read it I thought it would be delicious with pork. I wanted to make it for my man, which meant I didn’t have the time to marinate it overnight. And I skipped the brown sugar, afraid it would be too sweet for he-of-the-hating-sweetness. So, with a nice pork loin, only an hour of marinating and no brown sugar, I popped this in the oven for an hour or so, and it came out perfect. We nearly licked the dish. It will definitely be filed away with the ‘recipes to make again’. Merci beaucoup!

  • Helen

    I make a variation of the Chicken Marbella, but with apricots that have been soaked , and a healthy mound of fresh tarragon. It really is lovely. I look forward to trying the original version as it sounds delicious too.

  • Clotidle, Happy Happy Birthday!! I took a picture of you and myself in Dean and Deluca in Soho,NY. Will e-mail you a copy. While I am still writing my Guyanese cookbook, I am really enjoying yours and it’s delicious contents. I hope you will come to my book signing as I am working on the publishing process at this time. My book is called Guyana’s Tasty Exotic. Please view my site with the same name. I especially love your meatballs with prunes, and savory Cake Tomate Pistache & Chorizo. I hosted a charity party for Orphans and made those recipes, well what a hit! I was able to raise quite a bit. I blame it on your recipes. Some attendees ran out to get your book. Also let me know when you are in New York again, I am right in the heart of the city and would love to host you a party for your new book. Regards to your man for giving you such love and support, since we are benefiting from it. My web address is, please let me know what you think, and thanks for the kinds words you gaved me in New York.

  • may

    Happy Be-Lated!
    Hope you are enjoying your vacation!

    I am looking forward to picking up a copy of your book. =)

  • Anu

    Happy Belated B’day,

    I’m going to try the chicken recipe this weekend. A question though:
    Can I use dry prunes if I can’t find fresh ones?

    I love love this Blog. Keep up the great work.


  • Felix Aeberli

    Thanks for the Chicken with olives and prunes!!
    Perhaps wie do have the same birthday-date?? At least: congratulation from lion to lion. (28. July)
    Greetings from Zurich

  • Anu – The word “prune” here means a dried plum (pruneau in French), so yes, you can use dried!

    Felix – My birthday is on the 27th, so it seems I’m a day older. :)

  • celie

    Hi Clotilde! I am a big fan of your blog and cookbook. I discovered this caramelized chicken recipe over the winter and made it constantly. We are having a barbeque this weekend, and I was wondering if you had suggestions on how to adapt this recipe to the grill? I was thinking of keeping the marinade the same, then grilling, then finishing in the oven per the recipe, but am worried that the last step may dry out the chicken and wonder if I should just skip the last step. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks for sharing your great thoughts and recipes!

  • Lilly Adams

    I am using this recipe this weekend. Now that Thanksgiving is coming soon I was browsing the web for different recipes. I stumbled upon They offer many types of
    olives and they even offer so many recipes and neat things to do with the Olives. Check it out I am sure you will be happy with all their creativity.

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