Marengo Chicken Recipe for Napoleon
Many of you must have heard of Napoleon Bonaparte and perhaps also his victory over the Austrian army in Italy near the village of Marengo on the 14th of June 1800. But did you know that the recipe called the Poulet Marengo (Marengo chicken) was actually created as a celebration dish for napoleon at the end of that battle? The recipe was cook with very few ingredients right there on the battlefield where war canons were still smoking.
Just after the battle was over Napoleon was very hungry an ordered his officers (cooks) to prepare him a hearty and fatty chickens. Unfortunately the cart containing all the battery of cookware and product was intercepted before by the Austrians and the French army chef at the time called Dunand had nothing at his disposal to cook the requested meal.
History has it that the chef at at the time sent some men to scavenge goods in the nearby farm and get whatever they could. After a short while the men came back with a few tomatoes and olive oil, some garlic, a few chickens, eggs, some bread and one even wnet in the swamp to collet some sweet water crayfish ( ecrevisses) along a oldish large frying pan. After that Dunand then decided to borrow some cognac from napoleon stash and start to improvise something with these ingredients.
Dunand had the chicken prepared and chopped in pieces, pan-fried the carcasses and bones in oil add some water and created a base stock that he reserved for later. He then started to par cook the chicken pieces in the pan (that he seasoned with salt and pepper) removed them, add the garlic in and then deglazed the pan with cognac and his makeshift chicken stock, pour in the chopped tomatoes. Finally he added back the chicken pieces in and left the whole lot to cook. As an addition he separately fried some eggs, breads and the crayfish. When the chicken was cooked he served it on a large plate with a topping a fried breads (croutons) fried eggs and decorated with the crayfish. The Poulet Marengo was born.
Napoleon liked it so much he said to him: “you will cook me one of those at the end of each battle”
The recipe has since then has been reused and changed to incorporate much more ingredients and wine as replaced the cognac. However It is important to note that Dunand did mention that the crayfish should actually be discarded as they did not add anything to the dish. He replaced the crayfish later on by mushrooms.
With this in mind today I wanted to recreate the raw version of the recipe without using all the modern ingredients. So I will try to mimic what they had at the time and I will add mushroom instead of crayfish and I am also giving the ingredients I used 4 people here but you will noticed I made the recipe for 2 in the video as I was just trying out the recipe.
Cookware I used:
Ingredients for 2 people:
- 1 whole chicken cut in pieces (keep the bones and carcasses for the stock)
- 1 tin of good quality chopped tomatoes (400 grams)
- 2 glasses of water (400 ml)
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 100 ml of cognac ( Courvoisier)
- 4 slices of white bread ( crust removed)
- 4 eggs
- 200 grams of button or forest mushroom
- Salt and pepper to season
- 150 ml of olive oil
- parsley to decorate
Food preparation (Mise en place)
As always, food preparation first: cut you chicken in pieces, and chop the carcass in small pieces. Cut your mushrooms in quarters, slice off the crust from your bread slices, peel t and bruise the garlic, measure your cognac and pour the chopped tomatoes in a container ready for use.
Make the chicken stock:
In a large frying pan on medium to high heat pour in a 2 tablespoons of olive oil and pour all of the chopped chicken bones in ( from the carcass). Leave to brown for 10 minutes making sure you move the bones around in the pan every 3 minutes or so. One colored reduce the heat to medium and add the 2 glasses of water. Scrap the bottom of the pan to detach the caramelized meat juices and after 2 minutes turn you heat off and pour that stock in a small bowl or other container.
Start to cook the chicken:
Once your stock is ready, put your pan back on the stove over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil in and leave to warm up a bit. In the meantime season your chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Add the pieces of chicken in the pan and leave to brown for 5 minutes on each side. Once done remove the meat and reserve on a plate.
Prepare the Marengo sauce:
Using the pan your chicken was in, add all of the garlic and mix well with the oil that is in the pan (for about 30 seconds). Turn then the heat under the pan off (this is just for safety measure as we need to add a substantial amount of cognac. if any flames come in contact with the cognac it will ignite). Add the 100 ml of cognac let it bubble away and reduce a bit then add the chicken stock you previously made. Turn the heat back on to medium and leave the stock to reduce to a semi syrupy consistency ( as shown in the video). When reduce add the chopped tomatoes and mix well with the stock.
Finish to cook the chicken:
Add the chicken pieces on top of the sauce reduce the heat to low and leave the chicken to simmer for a further 15 minutes or more (depending on the size of your chicken) just make sure you turn the pieces of chicken every 5 minutes)
Prepare the garnish:
Now that you have some spare time while the chicken finishes to cook it is time to prepare the garnish. This is pretty straightforward, you only need to pan fry your mushroom quarter in a bit of olive oil with salt and pepper until golden. Pan fried your bread pieces (croutons) in plenty of olive oil. And when done it will be time to fry your eggs.
Serving the Poulet Marengo:
As soon as you are done with your garnish the chicken should be ready and it is time to serve. You can serve this either on individual plate or a large dish. In any case the portions goes as follow:
One or two pieces of chicken per person covered with tomato sauce and sauté mushrooms with on the side 1 or 2 pieces of crouton covered with a bit of sauce and topped with a fried egg. You can decorate with a piece of parsley if you like.
And VOILA you have just made the famous chicken Marengo in a similar way it was made back then on the battlefield.
Ps: The picture on that article gives you one serving suggestion showing you how I plated this simple Poulet Marengo.