Chicken Marengo was supposedly first concocted in Italy after the battle of Marengo on June 14, 1800. It was an important battle for Napoleon leading his forces to victory over the Austrians, and effectively driving them out of Italy. According to the legend, Napoleon refused to eat before fighting at Marengo and came off the battlefield with a ferocious hunger. One version of the story has his chef, Dunand, creating chicken Marengo from the only ingredients he was able to procure: a chicken, bread, oil, garlic, tomatoes, eggs and crayfish. Napoleon wolves this down, and the battle then turns in his favor. Being a superstitious sort of fellow, Napoleon came to associate this dish with victory, and supposedly insisted on having it prepared whenever he went into battle thereafter. Napoleon wanted this dish served on a bed of grilled bread and topped with a fried egg. These days you are just as likely to find it without the egg and bread and many times, to simplify things the crayfish is not included either. The easy recipe given here does not include these ingredients, but it does come with lots of great sauce, so serve it over riceor polenta to get every drop. Of course nothing is going to stop you from trying chicken Marengo the way it was first served to Napoleon. Simply place some grilled bread in a shallow bowl, ladle the poultry and sauce on top, and finally top with a fried egg.
8 pieces chicken, skinned
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced or pressed
1 cup dry white wine
1 14-1/2 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 bouillon cube
1 teaspoon dried thyme
12 ounces mushrooms, washed, dried and sliced
1 tablespoon Cognac (optional)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parley or basil
Sprinkle the skinned poultry with salt and pepper, then dredge in the flour. Melt the butter with the olive oil in a heavy skillet on medium heat and gradually add the chicken pieces. Brown the pieces on all sides and remove from the skillet. When all the pieces have been browned, add the onions and garlic to the skillet and cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally for five 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 15 minutes. Stir in the Cognac 5 minutes before the end of the cooking time. Stir in the chopped herb just before serving this lovely chicken Marengo.