All that talk about Napoleon’s horse Marengo a few days ago inspired me to make the victory meal for dinner!
I just happened to have some chicken thighs that I didnt use for the buttermilk fried chicken, and had just done plenty of reading on Napoleon and his horse, Marengo – after seeing recipe after recipe for Poulet a la Marengo, I decided to give it a go!
First? A little more about Napoleon and this famed dish for which he (supposedly) named his horse. Supposedly, Napoleon did not like to eat before his battles and was understandably ravenous after the battle was won. At the Battle of Marengo, south of Turin in northern Italy, in June of 1800, he went to his chef demanding a meal.
It was rumored that his chef, Dunand, found a scrawny farmyard chicken ambling along the battle field, a few tomatoes, eggs, and some crayfish, setting about to make Napoleon some sort of meal.
Chopping the chicken into more manageable bits with his sabre and frying it in olive oil, he added garlic, the tomatoes, water, mushrooms and some cognac – taken from Napoleon’s persoanl canteen. He made a type of stew, serving it with the crayfish on the side, over military emergency ration bread and some fried eggs on top. Owing to Napoleon’s supersticious nature, he had Dunand, make this dish after every battle. His short, hurried nature made it so that he would spend little time eating and scarfed down his food, all because he would refuse to eat before the battle - as there was a battle to be won, afterall.
Although there are historians that would argue that the original Chicken Marengo dish was created in Paris 15 years after the Battle of Marengo in honor of the battle, others tell this story between bites of Chicken Marengo. With some good company, a warm, savory dish and a glass of wine, this dish can be enjoyed with a fabulous story of one of history’s most popular soldiers.
This dish was originally created and eaten in June, so it is just as it should be that we make this dish in June as well – by complete accident, of course, and without crayfish. We found that the fried egg was really delicious, especially dipped in the yummy sauce! Next time, we might put it over some grilled french bread too! Try it however you like, the sauce is fantastic and this is definantly a meal I will be making for many people.
- 5-8 pieces of chicken (skinned if you like), thighs or dark meat is traditional
- 1/4 C flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
- 2 TBS butter
- 2 TBS olive oil
- 1 onion, peeled and chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and pressed
- 12 oz mushrooms, sliced
- 1 TBS cognac or cooking sherry
- 1 C dry white wine
- 1, 14 oz can diced tomatoes or a couple tomatoes sliced
- 150ml chicken stock
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 TBS chopped fresh parsley or basil (optional)
- 8-12 medium shrimp/crayfish
- 1-2 eggs, fried sunnyside up
Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper, thoroughly pat dry with paper towels, then dredge in flour. Cook the bacon in the skillet until crispy, remove and set aside.
Melt the butter with the olive oil in the skillet on medium heat and gradually add the chicken pieces, being careful not to crowd the pan or the chicken will steam instead of brown, work in batches if neccessary. Brown each piece on all sides and remove from the skillet.
Add the onions and garlic to the skillet, cooking on medium heat and stirring until the onion becomes tender. Add the left over dredge, stirring until it is all incorporated.
Add the white wine and scrape any bits clinging to the bottom and sides of the skillet into the wine. Add the tomatoes, stock and thyme stirring to mix it into the onion/dredge mixture and return the chicken to the skillet. Cover the skillet and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes or more.
Add the mushrooms and cook for five minutes, then add the shrimp just before the mushrooms are done, cooking just until the shrimp turn pink. Stir in the cognac for the last five minutes of the cook time and stir in the herbs just before serving.
This dish is served over rice or noodles, although Napoleon had it over grilled bread, topped with the chicken, arranging the shrimp around the perimeter of the chicken and topping the entire dish with a fried egg.