Primal Mavrodaphne

The inspiration for this dish is that it is a family recipe that I had never tried before.  My Mom sent the basic steps from my Cousin Daphne (the Vice Matriarch of our family), and said that she had not made the recipe recently, but remembered that the smell of it baking was heavenly.  She was absolutely right.  This chicken dish is unlike any I’ve ever tasted.  It has very simple ingredients, but its slow cooking process really draws out all of the goodness from each ingredient.  It does take a little love and attention throughout, but it is worth it!  Food is love after all, and some dishes take a little more TLC than others.

That being said, making this dish will not take you all day… only an hour or two of concentrated effort.  There is minimal prep work that gives you big flavor, and a little time and marinade does all the work.  The original recipe did not call for marinating the chicken ahead of time, but it helped to divide the labor and infuse the chicken with the lemon, olive oil and simple Greek spices.  The care and attention goes to making the simple yet fragrant mavro daphne sauce, which you can prepare while the chicken is baking in the oven.  I love multitasking. 🙂

When I first heard the recipe name – chicken mavrodaphne, I thought it might be named after my Cousin Daphne because it was her recipe.  She is actually going to look into the history a little more, but I found some interesting things on the Internet.  Not surprisingly, I found a few Greek myth-like stories that the name Mavro Daphne comes from a man that owned a winery of mavro grapes and loved a woman named Daphne who died tragically.  Whether or not that is true, I also discovered that mavro and mavrodaphne are grapes from different parts of Greece used to make wine.  That makes sense because you use a red wine to make the red sauce for the chicken.

I did not use a mavrodaphne wine, but rather a Pinot Noir.  Mavrodaphne wines are sweeter – with aromas of caramel, raisins, coffee, chocolate and plums- but I think that the Pinot Noir paired perfectly with the citrus flavors of the chicken.  I love the depth and tang of the red wine with the tomato paste, and don’t think that more sweetness would benefit the dish at all.  However, you are welcome to try your favorite red wine and let me know what you think!

This dish is the definition of comfort food.  It is warm, savory, and literally a dish from my family’s past.  Even in its rich tradition, there are ways that you can make it your own.  You can choose the red wine and the chicken pieces that you use.  I used chicken leg quarters with the skin on.  You could break apart a whole chicken, or just use breasts or thighs – skin on or off.  There will be a lot of delicious sauce, so don’t be afraid to cook double the amount of chicken that I used.  You WILL want lots of leftovers!

Speaking of leftovers: after you bake the chicken in the lemon and olive oil marinade, you can reserve some of the drippings to make rice pilaf.  In my case, I made Paleo Cauliflower Rice Pilaf with mushrooms and onions, and it was a perfect pairing!  This dish serves at least four, and is meant to be enjoyed with family and friends.  Taylor and I ate the chicken with our hands, but when I’m eating chicken off the bone… a fork and knife just doesn’t cut it.  I hope you roll up your sleeves and enjoy!


  • 1 pkg chicken leg quarters (5-6), rinsed, and most of skin trimmed/removed
  • For marinade:
  • 1/4 cup organic olive oil
  • juice of 2 fresh lemons + zest
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • For wine sauce:
  • 2 quarts (8 cups) water
  • 1 (6oz) can organic tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tbs garlic powder
  • 2 cups red wine (I used a Pinot Noir)


  • 1. In a large ziplock bag, add lemon juice/zest, olive oil, salt, pepper, and oregano
  • 2. Add chicken pieces, seal bag, then massage bag to coat chicken evenly
  • 3. Place chicken in fridge and let marinate for a couple hours or overnight
  • 4. Take chicken out of the fridge early enough to get closer to room temperature
  • 5. Preheat oven to 350
  • 6. Pour chicken (with marinade) into an aluminum foil covered pan and bake for 1 hour
  • 7. Meanwhile, in a medium pot on medium/medium high heat, dilute tomato paste with water, add salt and garlic powder, whisking ingredients together evenly
  • 8. Reduce the liquid down by half, stirring frequently (this takes about an hour)
  • 9. After tomato liquid has reduced, add wine and simmer for another 30 minutes, stirring frequently
  • 10. When chicken is out of oven, pour about 2/3 of baking liquid into a large pyrex to save for “rice” pilaf
  • 11. Pour wine sauce over chicken, and bake for another 30 minutes
  • 12. Enjoy!