Chicken Marengo is to Dine like an Emperor

Note From Rosemarie’s Kitchen: Over the next several days (the good Lord willing), I will be weaving a few recipes from past posts into the new year and I ask you to bear with me. As the writer of the family, it has fallen to my shoulders to craft a eulogy fitting for our sweet brother. This difficult and emotionally draining task deserves my full attention. Until complete, Rosemarie’s Kitchen will need to take a backseat. Rather than post nothing, I have chosen to reintroduce recipes from the past that didn’t receive rave reviews the first time around, but are none the less worthy of a second look.  I’ll be back to my old self again soon, posting new and yummy recipes. In the meantime, please enjoy this wonderful legendary creation from the chef of Napoleon Bonaparte.

When it comes to the history and roots of any particular dish, most of the tales of how they came to be tend to be based more on myth rather than fact.  Case in point, the birth of Chicken Marengo.

It is said that Chicken Marengo was created on the battlefield by Napoleon’s Swiss chef, a fellow named Dunand.  Napoleon was of the habit of not eating until the end of a battle, believing that what he ate could affect the outcome of the fight.  (This strange belief was shared by other battle commanders of his time).  Napoleon was famished when he withdrew victoriously from the field of conflict on the outskirts of Marengo, Italy.  One account claims that the supply wagon had fallen behind, so the chef had no supplies from which to feed Napoleon.  Another account claims that during the battle itself the supplies were ceased by the Austrians.  (Which really doesn’t make much sense, unless the Austrians either ate all the supplies or destroyed what they had in the face of defeat). Whatever the reason, Dunand had no supplies at his disposal and is reported to have sent some men to scour the countryside and nearby farms.  They returned with a few chickens, some tomatoes, old bread, garlic, white wine, Cognac, a few eggs and crawfish from a nearby steam.  From this Dunand created Chicken Marengo, or so the story goes.  That Napoleon had led his troops to victory over the Austrians on June 14, 1800 on the outskirts of a city in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy is an undisputed fact.  Everything else is questionable.  Still, it makes for a colorful story . . .

To make Chicken Marengo in the true tradition of the dish, it should be served over day-old toast, topped with a fried egg and a few crawfish.  Today, most renditions skip the egg and crawfish all together and those that don’t serve them on the side.  As for the toast – it’s still a part of the dish in most recipes.  I opted to skip the toast and to serve mine with Polenta Stars.  Since the dish itself is French, named after a battle that took place in Italy, I like the idea of combining both French and Italian cuisine on one plate.

Polenta Stars
4 cups Chicken Broth
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon Chopped Rosemary

In a large nonstick saucepan, heat chicken broth to a boil; slowly stir in cornmeal.

Reduce heat to low; cook, stirring frequently, 30 minutes or until mixture is very thick and pulls away from side of pan. Mixture may be lumpy.

Pour Polenta into greased rimmed baking sheet. Cover; refrigerate 2 to 3 hours or until firm.

Remove Polenta from refrigerator. Use a cookie cutter to cut different size star or other desired shapes from Polenta.

Spray large nonstick skillet or griddle with cooking spray; heat over medium heat until hot. Cook Polenta about 4 minutes per side or until lightly browned. Keep warm until ready to serve.

 

Chicken Marengo
8 pieces chicken, skinned (I prefer boneless/skinless breasts)
salt & pepper
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, peeled & chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced or pressed
1 cup dry white wine
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
1 chicken bouillon cube
1 teaspoon dried thyme
12 ounces mushrooms, washed, dried and sliced
1 tablespoon cognac
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parley or basil (the parsley will add color, the basil more flavor)

Sprinkle the skinned chicken pieces with salt and pepper, then dredge in the flour. Melt the butter with the olive oil in a heavy skillet on medium heat. Divide chicken into two batches. Brown the first batch of chicken on all sides and remove from the skillet.

Add a little butter with olive oil to the skillet. Brown second batch of chicken on all sides and remove from skillet.

When all the chicken has been browned, add the onions and garlic to the skillet and cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes.

Add the white wine and scrape any bits clinging to the bottom and sides of the skillet into the wine.

Add the tomatoes, bouillon cube, and dried thyme, then the browned chicken pieces. Cover the skillet and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes.

Add the mushrooms and continue cooking for 10 minutes.

Stir in the cognac, cook 5 minutes longer. Remove from heat, stir in the chopped herb and serve.

Bon appétit.

2 thoughts on “Chicken Marengo is to Dine like an Emperor

  1. Such a gorgeous plate, & it sounds delicious. I’ve never thought of shaping polenta like this, I’ll have to try.
    I’m sorry you’re going through this difficult time, my thoughts are with you. Take all the time you need…

    Liked by 1 person

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