Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Chicken Marengo – the famous French dish invented by Napoleon’s battlefield chef to celebrate Napoleon’s success in northwest Italy in 1800


Chicken Marengo is one of our favorite easy “go-to” dishes. If you use boneless, skinless chicken breasts, it can easily be made in under an hour and the wonderful history alone is enough reason to serve it at a dinner party. A great conversation starter at the table is to tell your guests about its colorful history.

Napoleon’s chef was a man named Durand. According to legend, when Napoleon defeated the Austrians on the battlefield near the village of Marengo in northwest Italy in June of 1800, Durand created the dish Chicken Marengo. The supply trains hadn’t been able to keep up with the troops, so there wasn’t anything with which to make dinner for the temperamental Napoleon. Durand decided to send some of his men into the countryside to find provisions for a celebration dinner. On a nearby farm they found chicken, mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, olive oil and garlic.

There are dozens of stories about the creation of the actual dish. Some say it was garnished with crayfish and fried eggs; others insist it included olives, anchovies, and Italian Prosciutto, which would make it Chicken Provencale.

It’s simple to use Chicken Marengo as a base recipe for Chicken Provencale. Just exclude the mushrooms and add the Prosciutto, olives and anchovies. If you’re not an anchovy fan, simply leave them out. I usually don’t mention the anchovies and follow Mario Batali’s rule of “you’re not obliged to tell.”

Just for fun, I combined the two dishes today and included mushrooms, Prosciutto, olives and anchovies. I like to serve this with parsley rice that I’ve molded into a small dish. Spray a mold with a bit of cooking spray and pack the rice in well. To serve, invert over a plate and carefully remove the mold.


Chicken Marengo a la Provencale
Adapted from A Jug of Wine by Morrison Wood & 60 Minute Gourmet by Pierre Franey

4 skinless, boneless, chicken breasts, about 6 ounces each
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
All purpose flour
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
4 small yellow onions, peeled and chopped, about 1 cup
1 ½ cups sliced fresh button mushrooms
2 teaspoons chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
1 clove of garlic, finely minced
Generous pinch of dried thyme and oregano
½ cup Italian Prosciutto, diced
1 14-ounce canned whole tomatoes, cut into pieces, juices reserved
1 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon brandy
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon flour
4 – 6 chopped good quality anchovies, chopped (optional, but recommended)
1 cup olives, preferably small French ones

Dry the chicken well and season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Dust the chicken pieces lightly in flour. In a large skillet heat the olive oil and sauté the chicken until it is golden brown, turning frequently so that all pieces are done evenly. If they don’t all fit, cook them in two batches. Do not crowd in the skillet or they will steam. When the chicken is browned nicely on both sides, remove and cover to keep warm.

In the same skillet put chopped onions, sliced fresh mushrooms, minced parsley, and, if necessary, a little more olive oil. Cook until the mushrooms are tender, seasoning the mushrooms with salt and freshly ground black pepper as they cook. Add garlic and cook for one minute more. Add the thyme, oregano, and Prosciutto cook for another minute, and then add the tomatoes, dry white wine, brandy, tomato paste and flour. Mix and blend the ingredients well, and allow it simmer over a medium flame for about 10 minutes. Now put the chicken back in the sauce, cover the pan, and cook for about 30 minutes, or until the chicken is completely tender. Add the anchovies to the sauce about 10 minutes before it is ready and the olives five minutes before you serve. Serve in the sauce. If the sauce is too thick, add a little of the reserved tomato juice. Serves 4.


60 comments:

  1. you photographs have improved with leaps and bounds - the styling the lighting - all of it!

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  2. Beautiful photos..can almost taste the Chicken Marengo. Thanks also for the history lesson. As Americans, we sometimes forget about those important times in Europe that shaped the world and the dinner table.

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  3. Thank you for your posting...
    Now I have a name for my chicken dish, which my dad used to make all the time and became favourite to us.. and I continued making it, but didnt have a name for it...
    the photo looks awesome. This is a great dish and I love it.

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  4. Sam, this looks so beautiful I can almost taste it. I also love the background information you've shared with us today. Have a fabulous day. Blessings...Mary

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  5. I always love your post! The history makes this dish that much richer! I love talking food history, until I bore my friends at the table, lol, but they get into it! Thanks Sam

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  6. The colors, the flavors...this dish is perfect! Love the photos.

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  7. I've made many a Chicken Marengo but this looks like a worthwhile improvement!

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  8. I like Mario Batali's rule too! This looks like a wonderful rustic Provencal dish!

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  9. Wonderful, Sam! I love Morrison Wood's Jug of Wine (although it ages us!)and think your Chicken Marengo combo of recipes is delightful. And the photo is so full of color! makes the dish so very tempting!

    My daughter (who is so sweet to say so) thought my blogging about it would change the way people felt about eaux de vie and perhaps more restaurants would offer it and more merchants would stock it. She must think I reach millions of people rather than our small blogging family! There was a quote I read; Christopther Buckley had his first taste of eaux de vie in Anguilla. He said:
    Last night I had some mirabelle
    Today I do not feel so swell.
    I think that that is it for me
    With any kind of eau de vie.

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  10. My husband will like this recipe..Prosciutto:) The magic word..Thanks for the history!

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  11. That looks positively succulent and I can almost taste those olives by looking at it. Thanks for sharing. The timbale of rice is very neat too.

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  12. Very Nice!! Presentation is everything.

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  13. Delectable looking dish. Great storyline behind the dish too.

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  14. Stunning plate, it looks like a work of art! I like what Mario says too! My daughter would notice though, she won't eat some Caesar Salads because she says they put "tuna fish" in it. Thanks for sharing with the story!

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  15. Look at all of those wonderful flavours in combination Sam. I have chicken breasts at the ready.

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  16. That is just gorgeous, from a photography and culinary viewpoint. I have bookmarked this because I can't wait to try it. The sauce, olives and just everything is perfect.

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  17. YUM!!! Cant have enough chicken recipes with as much chicken as we consume in my household. Cant wait to try this one

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  18. Bonjour Sam,
    This chicken dish looks so good, and I agree your potography looks wondeful.
    ANother delicious recipe I must file under My Carolina Kitchen.
    Happy week to you,
    Mimi

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  19. This both looks and sounds amazing! I am going to give this a try.

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  20. This looks so beyond good! I need an invitation to dinner. Beginning next week, we will be posting our choices for blog of the week to Arkansas Bloggers. Pick any favorite and share it by linking up with Mister Linky.

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  21. wow this is amazing love the history what a fun post, i write for black wing quality meats could I feature your recipe and link to you?
    rebeccasubbiah at yahoo dot com

    Rebecca

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  22. I don't know about winning a battle but I would have been prepared to take on a whole army if I knew this divine dish waited for me at the end!! Beautifully presented!

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  23. This looks so vibrant and packed with terrific flavors. I like the way you combined your recipes. Thanks for the fun history lesson too!

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  24. I never knew the history of Chicken Marengo until now. Great post! You have it plated beautifully.

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  25. Great history followed by a great dish..I love the color and how beautifully plated..

    sweetlife

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  26. oh my gosh, this looks amazing !

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  27. That combination works for me!! Love the saying you attributed to Battali. It works especially well in the case of anchovies -- if you don't tell, they'd never know.

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  28. This dish looks amazing....I have never had Marengo but look forward to tasting it....yum!

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  29. I didn't know the story about Napoleon and Durand...interesting AND great dish !
    Thanks, I'll try it..

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  30. I have not made Chicken Marengo for a long time now, but with your idea of using chicken cutlets I think it would be easier to make it for just my husband and I. Your picture looks very appetizing.

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  31. I love the story behind the recipe - how interesting that Chicken Marengo emerged out of a war and Napoleon's cravings.

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  32. Funny! I used to make "poulet marengo" a lot when I lived in France with my family! so easy and so flavorful!
    Perfect!

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  33. Lovely. A recipe with a story. And I think it is time to get dinner now.

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  34. Sam, I am thinking of licking my monitor. I am running a report at work, and decided to sneak by for a visit.

    I haven't had lunch, and you've shown me this incredible dish. And, I loved learning the history.

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  35. I'll pass this on to my sister who loves to read recipes although she doesn't cook anymore.
    But I will try this recipe. It looks delicious.

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  36. Thank you for the Easter wishes, Sam...aren't we having heavenly weather this week?

    Happy Easter to you, my good friend, and to your family!

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  37. Sam, Your chicken marengo looks good enough to eat! Don't you love our glorious weather. Happy Easter.

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  38. I never knew the history of this recipe. It looks wonderful, full of color and flavor.
    Mimi

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  39. Dear Sam,

    Thank you for the wonderful story behind this marvellous & inspiring tasty & festive dish! Waw!

    A Happy Easter to you & your family!!

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  40. Mmmm Sam, this is SO beautifully Mediteranian..my favourite kind of meal! And thanks for a bit of culinary history!
    Ronelle

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  41. I'm just ducking back in to wish you a Happy Easter, Sam. Have a wonderful weekend. Blessings...Mary

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  42. Hi Sam

    Your posts are always so well presented and informative. Chicken Marengo looks wonderful!

    I hope you have a very happy holiday!

    ♥ Pat

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  43. This is such a lovely presentation with each ingredient so deliciously on display! The history is a great garnish , too. What I love about this recipe is that most of the ingredients are ones that I usually have on hand (except, perhaps, Prosciutto and anchovies). 8-)

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  44. I am ALWAYS in need of more go-to recipes... Thanks, this looks like a keeper.
    Also, I LOVE the lentil salad you did last. I am a bit of a lentil nut.
    It's always such a pleasure to visit your blog.

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  45. I love it all: the photos, the story, the recipe and the finished dish. So enticing and filled with ingredient that warm the soul. Happy Easter to you and yours!

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  46. I love the history behind this dish and can't wait to try it! Great pics!

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  47. I have all the ingredients to make this savory, and healthy looking dish. As everyone else has commented-- and I agree, GREAT PICS!

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  48. Sam,
    I love dinners like this!
    I will try it for dinner tonight!
    Thanks!

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  49. Wow, this chicken dish sure looks very appetizing...love the ingredients in it and thank you so much for the background of this recipe :-)

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  50. What a beautiful dish, Sam. I love all the flavors combined here, and I would definitely add the anchovies.

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  51. Beautiful photos. I can almost taste the chicken. What a lovely dish, Sam. I would definetely add the anhovies.

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  52. Beautiful dish. A perfect dish for enteratining. I like Mario Batali's rule :-)

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  53. Sam this sounds just wonderful. I'm putting it on my short list.

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  54. This looks sensational. This absolutely the kind of dish that I love - lots of my favourite ingredients, and I totally subscribe to the Mario Batalli rule on achovies - I never ever tell. I'll be making this in the next few days.
    Sue

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  55. Sam, this is a wonderful recipe. I love it that you've combined the two--that's my favorite kind of cooking!

    Let's talk about those photos--Stunning. I love the light in them!

    Thanks for this post. Did you know that Napoleon's favorite horse was also named Marengo?

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  56. OH MY! Totally forgot all about Chicken Marengo and it was one of my favorite meals when I was single. Gosh, I've not made it for 25 yrs! Thanks for the reminder!!

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  57. Thanks for sharing the background on this dish. It looks really good!

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  58. so much to read about and learn -enjoyed reading this post so much! Next time you prepare this,call me~I'm coming over! My favorite ingredients...

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  59. I respectfully tell you that Chicken Marengo is deemed an Italian dish. With variations, it is sometimes "French". My sources are two Italian chefs, a chef/instructor and four Italian cookbooks.

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  60. I can see why this is one of your most popular posts. Fantastic photos...I want to reach out and take a bite!

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Sam