Have you ever wondered about the history of your favorite dish then decided to do a little research to find out when and how it originated? If you have, then you probably already know that like the game of telephone you played when you were a child, recipes often end up changing as they get passed down over the years and the end result is usually very different from the original.
Pollo alla Marengo, or Chicken Marengo is named after a battle that took place in the province of Alessandria in the Piedmont region of Italy. Napoleon Bonaparte and his army defeated the Austrians in this battle, now known as the battle of Marengo, on June 14, 1800. According to the legend, Napoleon, who never ate anything before a battle, was exhausted and starving by the time it was over, so he asked his chef, Dunan, to prepare him a meal out of whatever ingredients he could find. With limited resources and time, he was able to find a chicken, a few eggs and some olive oil. Dunan combined these ingredients and cooked a dish that would later come to be known as Chicken Marengo. From that day forward, Napoleon ate this dish after every battle. It is rumored that Dunan tried to alter the recipe once he had access to more ingredients but since Napoleon was notoriously superstitious, he demanded that the recipe be prepared in exactly the same way as the first time. Today, however, the recipe has been embellished a bit and usually includes many other ingredients such as flour, red wine and parsley. There are also several other variations of the recipe that include crayfish, tomatoes, mushrooms and garlic. The recipe below is a good basis for those who have never attempted to make Chicken Marengo. Over time, you might even develop your own version of this tasty dish! - Dana Knowles
4 tbsp. butter
4 oz. pancetta, diced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic
4 oz. mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 sprig thyme, plus extra for garnish
1 chicken, cut into large pieces
flour for dredging
2 c. red wine
1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the pancetta, onions, garlic, mushrooms and thyme. Cook until the onions are translucent and the pancetta is golden, about 5 minutes, then remove from the skillet and set aside. Discard the garlic. Dredge the chicken in flour, shaking off any excess. Add the chicken to the skillet and cook until golden brown. Add the reserved vegetables and pancetta, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Add the wine and season with salt. Lower the heat, cover and cook for 30 minutes. Serve immediately along with the vegetables and sauce. Serve this dish with the wine you use for cooking. Serves 4
A full-bodied red wine, such as Barbera (which can also be used for cooking)
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