Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Chicken Marengo

I found this charming story on Wikipedia:
Chicken Marengo is an Italian savoury dish, so named for being the dish that Napoléon Bonaparte ate after the Battle of Marengo.

According to tradition Napoleon demanded a quick meal after the battle and his chef was forced to work with the meager results of a forage: a chicken (and some eggs), tomatoes, onions, garlic, herbs, olive oil, and crayfish. The chef cut up the chicken (reportedly with a sabre) and fried it in olive oil, made a sauce from the tomatoes, garlic and onions (plus a bit of cognac from Napoleon's flask), cooked the crayfish, fried the eggs and served them as a garnish, with some of the soldier's bread ration on the side. Napoleon reportedly liked the dish and (having won the battle) considered it lucky. He refused to have the ingredients altered on future occasions even when his chef tried to omit the crayfish.

Modern versions of the dish are made by first flouring then browning chicken portions in oil or butter. The part-cooked chicken is then transferred into a tomato sauce (usually made with onions, garlic, wine & chopped tomatoes). The whole is then cooked slowly until the chicken is done, and a few minutes before serving, a good amount of chopped herbs and black olives are added. This would usually be eaten with a potato dish of some sort, or just crusty bread.

I found a recipe on Food Network for Chicken Marengo. I pretty much followed the directions, but here is my altered ingredient list:
Chicken Marengo
2-3 chicken breasts, sliced fairly thin
salt and pepper
scoop of flour
3 tablespoons (ish) vegetable oil - you could use olive oil, if you want to be snooty about it
1 medium sweet onion, thinly sliced
1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and julienned (I actually used 2 or 3 mini sweet peppers)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup apple juice (original recipe called for white wine)
1/2 cup beef broth
1 (14-ounce) can chopped tomatoes
I didn't have a sabre handy for cutting up the ingredients, and I didn't add garlic - because this recipe didn't call for it, but when I make it again, I will definitely add 2 or 3 crushed cloves of garlic. I served it with pasta, but I like the idea of crusty bread. Next time.

Verdict: My nineteen year old son took over the stirring as soon as he saw the onions and peppers sauteing. He was in love with this, as was my husband. Fifteen year old son wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole, but that's no surprise - he took one look at the onions and mushrooms and turned his nose up at it. I liked how easy this dish was - the recipe is more of a 'guideline' - this could easily be one of those "a pinch of this, and a handful of that" kind of thing.

Chicken Marengo is mentioned in Heidelberg Wedding.


  1. Betty Barbara here--
    Yummm indeed!
    Super large shrimp could do double duty as the crayfish, in a pinch. If you felt the absolute need for shellfish in the dish, that is.
    And your pictures were just mouthwatering--even though I had already eaten! Your poor 15 years-old--think of that child as one with a super sensitive palate doomed (or blessed--your pick)--to require non-spicy food for the rest of his life.

  2. I don't consider my 15 year old doomed...yet. I've had to put up with a lot of picky eaters (his 5 older siblings) and I've learned that even if they're picky when they're young, they do finally outgrow it, usually about the time they graduate from high school.