I was filled with great sadness upon reading that Sheila Lukins had passed away this week. She was 66, and had been diagnosed with brain cancer just 3 months ago.
Lukins’ most famous cookbook, the best-selling and hugely influential Silver Palate Cookbook, sits prominently on my bookshelf, an original edition “borrowed” from my mom. Its pages are dog-eared and worn; hand-written notes from the early 80’s fill the margins.
Tonight, a few friends will gather at my house for dinner and to watch Top Chef. I’ve been contemplating what to make… and now, having read Lukins’ obituary, it seems only too obvious.
The always delicious and timelessly classic chicken marbella.
Fortunately, Lukins’ recipes are forgiving and adaptable, as I’ll have to make some changes. I won’t have time to marinate it overnight, which is a marbella essential. And, since it’s nearly noon and I haven’t gone grocery shopping, I certainly won’t have time to follow my mom’s notes from 1983: “better warmed over next day. Very good at room temperature.” (And speaking of mom’s notes, I wonder if prunes will still be 32 cents… as she has fastidiously penciled-in.) no doubt, when my oven is set to 400 degrees for an hour in this smoke-filled Los Angeles heat, I’ll certainly wonder why I didn’t fire up the grill instead.
But, as we sit down to watch America’s future culinary leaders compete for the title of Top Chef, I really can’t think of any better way to honor such an influential cook who transformed America’s palate during the last three decades. A scrumptious bite of moist chicken, salty olives, and sweet, melt-in-your mouth prunes is the tastiest tribute I can image.