Chicken with Marsala, Olives and Blood Oranges

How can a one-pot meal of chicken with Marsala, olives and blood oranges not be good? I like blood oranges and can’t have enough of them. In fact, I bought not one, but two bags of Sunkist blood oranges from Trader Joe’s. I figured that I’ll just have to find creative ways to eat them. More than just squeezing them in the juicer. This recipe from Diana Henry’s A Bird in the Hand offers the perfect solution. One of the great things about chicken is its adaptability. It can take on herby, fruity, sweet and salty accompaniments. It also loves booze.

Deglaze the pan, after sautéing pieces of chicken, with dry Marsala. (Or for that matter, with vermouth or Calvados, which are equally compelling.) There shouldn’t be any doubt that the resulting chicken dish is going to be a real treat or a simple trick? I have high hope for this chicken with Marsala, olives and blood oranges recipe.

Chicken with Marsala roasted in cast-iron pan

There is one rule with alcohol. You have to let it bubble, boil and reduce over high heat, otherwise it tastes raw. Blood orange juices is also called to the task of deglazing. The color of the blood orange juice is more red than orange. The look and smell of these blood oranges (without the help of alcohol) is quite intoxicating on its own. I may say.

I assumed all the chicken pieces, olives and oranges will go into the oven at the same time to continue cooking and to let the flavor develop. A quick review of the recipe shows that Diane Henry tells us to roast the chicken alone for the initial 20 minutes. Then add the olives and oranges after that. Staying true to the recipe, I scrambled to remove all the olives and oranges and set them aside. Add them back in until the last 20 minutes of cooking.

There is nothing not to like about this one-pot dish. The chickens are well cooked, brightened by the savory olives and the sweet and fruity oranges. My husband, the in-house critic, had this to say. He thought the chicken, the olives and the blood oranges all tasted great –individually. However, the flavor had not melded together as a whole as much as he’d like. Fair enough!

Sous-vide chicken with Marsala

To up my game, I packed one piece of seasoned chicken leg, Marsala, green olives and one blood orange in thin slices (without peeling) in a vacuum bag. Placed the bags in the immersion circulator at 152°F and cooked them sous-vide style for 90 minutes. The chicken was then browned on the stovetop. The remaining liquid from the bag, plus more Marsala and fresh-squeezed orange juice went into the pan juice and reduced. Finally, I garnished the chicken with olives from the bag, a sprig of thyme, and slices of fresh blood oranges. This time, all I heard were accolades for the sous vide chicken! Admittedly, it’s a truly composed succulent chicken dish.

One more tips for both methods of cooking: I would sprinkle blood orange zest all over the chicken. That’d clearly add a bold punch of citrus flavor and aroma to the final dish.





Chicken with Marsala, Olives and Blood Oranges

Print Recipe
Serves: 4 to 6


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 1 medium chicken, cut into 8 pieces
  • 2 small red onions, halved and cut into crescent moon-shaped slices
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ cup Marsala
  • Juice of 1 blood orange, plus 2 blood oranges
  • 8 sprigs of thyme, divided
  • 3 tablespoons good-quality green olives
  • Superfine sugar



Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Heat the olive oil in a broad, ovenproof sauté pan in which the chicken pieces can lie in a single layer (I use a cast-iron pan). Season the chicken and brown it over medium-high heat on both sides, skin-side first. Be careful not to turn the chicken over before it comes away easily from the bottom of the pan, otherwise you will tear the skin. Remove the chicken from the pan and set it aside.


Discard all but a couple of tablespoons of the oil left behind in the pan. Add the onions and cook over medium-low heat until they begin to soften. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.


Deglaze the pan with the Marsala, stirring it around to scrape up anything that’s stuck to the base. Add the blood orange juice. Return the chicken—with any juices that have run out of it—to the pan, skin-side up. Season and add 6 of the sprigs of thyme. Bring the liquid underneath the chicken to a boil, then remove the pan from the heat and put it in the oven for 20 minutes.


Meanwhile, cut a slice off the bottom and top of each whole blood orange so they have a flat base on which to sit. Using a very sharp knife, cut the peel and pith from each orange, working around the fruit and cutting the peel away in broad slices from top to bottom. Slice the oranges into wheels and flick out any seeds you see.


Add the olives to the chicken and arrange the sliced blood oranges on top. (The oranges should remain on top, out of the liquid.) Sprinkle the orange slices with a little sugar and return the pan to the oven. Cook for another 20 minutes. The juices under the chicken should have reduced, the orange slices have turned golden, even caramelized in patches, and the chicken be cooked through.


Add the leaves of the remaining sprigs of thyme—they just lift the flavor—carefully spooning some of the juices over them. Serve immediately.


Adapted from Diana Henry's A Bird in the Hand

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  • Reply
    Kim Tracy
    February 11, 2018 at 3:42 pm

    I am now convinced I need a trip to Trader Joe’s. It’s blood orange season…hooray! I have no doubt the alcohol with the blood orange made for a wonderful aroma. The smell of oranges is intoxicating in itself. Interesting that your husband preferred the sous vide version best. That is a cooking method that I’ve never tried, yet see more and more and I’ve become quite interested. I think your suggestion of adding the orange zest is great, for either preparation. Looks incredible!

  • Reply
    Diane Zwang
    February 11, 2018 at 5:35 pm

    I don’t think I have met someone with such a zest for blood oranges. I have made a recipe with mandarin oranges that seems a little similar. Sounds like your second version was better.

  • Reply
    February 12, 2018 at 8:12 am

    We normally use chicken breasts for convenience but I personally prefer leg quarters. They deserve a little more love! This sounds like something we would enjoy eating!

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