In the middle of June 1800, Napoleon Bonaparte's troops were engaged in battle with Austrian forces near the small village of Marengo in northern Italy. The battle was fierce, or so the legend has it, and Napoleon, of course, emerged victorious. And hungry. He asked his chef to prepare a meal quickly and the cook scoured the countryside looking for foods to prepare. He scurried around and discovered a chicken, olive oil, tomatoes, herbs, eggs and crawfish. Within minutes, a fire was started and the chef prepared a quick sauté of the chicken with tomatoes, oil and herbs. It is said that he garnished the dish before serving it with a fried egg and crawfish. In my version, the chicken, cut into serving pieces, is simply browned in a little olive oil (I add a touch of butter to give it flavor) on both sides. I then prefer to add sliced mushrooms (there are those who declare that truffles were among the original ingredients), seasonings, wine, tomatoes and parsley and cook covered until done, about 10 minutes longer.
- Serves: 4 persons
- 4-pound chicken cut into serving pieces
- Salt to taste, if desired
- Freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 2tablespoons butter
- 2tablespoons olive oil
- 1 ½cups thinly sliced mushrooms (about 1/2 pound)
- ½cup finely chopped onion
- ½teaspoon finely minced garlic
- 1bay leaf
- 2sprigs fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried
- ½cup dry white wine
- 2cups cored and cubed red ripe tomatoes, or use canned tomatoes
- ¼cup tomato paste
- ½cup chicken broth
- 2sprigs fresh parsley
Step 1Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper to taste.
Step 2Heat the butter and oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken pieces skin-side down. Cook until golden brown on one side, about five minutes. Turn the pieces and cook on the other side about two minutes. Pour off the fat from the skillet.
Step 3Scatter the mushrooms over the chicken. Stir to distribute. Add the onion, garlic, bay leaf and thyme and cook about 5 minutes.
Step 4Add the wine and scrape the bottom of the skillet with a wooden spoon to dissolve the brown particles that cling to the bottom of the pan. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, chicken broth and parsley. Bring to the boil. Cover and cook 10 minutes. Serve with rice and a tossed green salad.