June 14: Battle of Marengo (1800)
Chicken Marengo was created by the personal chef of Napoléon Bonaparte after the French were victorious over the Austrians on the Italian battlefield near the village of Marengo. Using ingredients on hand at the time, the chef reportedly cut up the chicken with a sword and made a tomato sauce with leftover cognac (modern versions of this recipe use wine). Chicken Marengo then became known as Napoléon’s lucky dish.
We were not so lucky the first time we made Chicken Marengo. The chicken thighs were brown and beautiful on the outside—but they were still pink and not pretty on the inside! The recipe from a cookbook that we got at a used bookstore did not mention using a partially-cooked chicken to begin with. Since then, we have prepared Chicken Marengo by parboiling the meat first. Fortunately, the food is fabulous for us now!
Good luck in making Chicken Marengo to mark the Battle of Marengo.
(Adapted from “Wonderful Ways to Prepare Chicken” by Jo Ann Shirley)
- 1 large chicken (we use skinless, boneless chicken breasts)
- salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste
- ½ cup flour, divided use
- ½ cup (1 stick) butter, divided use
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1 cup tomatoes, chopped
- 1 cup mushrooms, sliced
- ½ cup olives, pitted and sliced (we omitted these)
- ½ cup white cooking wine
Parboil the chicken until slightly cooked. Let cool and cut into pieces. In a bowl, combine the seasonings (salt, pepper and garlic powder) with the flour. Dredge the chicken pieces in this mixture.
Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a large pan. Fry the floured chicken in the melted butter until brown and the meat is cooked through. Remove with a slotted spoon and keep warm on a serving bowl. In the same pan, melt the rest of the butter, scraping up some of the browned bits.
Stir in 3 tablespoons of remaining flour (from dredging the chicken) and mix to make a gravy. Thin with the chicken stock until smooth and no longer lumpy. Add the tomatoes, mushrooms, olives and wine. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add a little water if the gravy is too thick. Pour this gravy-sauce mixture over the chicken. Serve hot.
- Serve Chicken Marengo with crusty bread (French or Italian), pasta noodles or rice.