Chicken Marengo is an amazing Italian dish named for being the meal Napoleon feasted on after defeating the Austrians at the Battle of Marengo in 1800.
Its original conception was a 19th century battlefield version of making do with whatever's in the fridge. Supposedly, Napoleon demanded a meal once the battle was over. His chef was put on the spot, as the only ingredients available were chicken, eggs, tomatoes, onions, garlic, herbs, olive oil and crayfish. The chicken had to be fried in olive oil. A sauce was made from tomatoes, garlic and onions, while the crayfish was cooked up on the side and all was served over eggs with soldiers' biscuit rations. The soon-to-be emperor was smitten and henceforth would not tolerate the slightest deviation from the original recipe. Or so the myth of Chicken Marengo goes.
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Most versions of this dish you will come across today, such as this one, leave out the crayfish and add olives for flavor. Serving this over polenta also makes this comfort food to the max. The flavors are over the top, and you will love how moist the chicken becomes.
QUICK CHICKEN MARENGO
- Cooking spray
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 pound boneless, skinless, chicken breast halves, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
- 3 ounces fatty pastrami, diced
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 cups sliced onion
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 can (14.5 ounce) diced tomatoes in juice
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1/2 cup pitted and chopped kalamata olives
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- Lemon-Pepper Polenta (recipe below)
- Lemon zest
- Chopped fresh parsley
Combine flour, kosher salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes in a plastic bag. (If you are serving to children, I might suggest leaving out the red pepper flakes, as it gives it a bit of a spicy kick.) Add chicken and toss to coat with flour mixture; set aside.
Saute pastrami in oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat until crisp, 5 minutes. Remove pastrami to a paper-towel lined plate; set aside.
In same saute pan, with retained oil, cook chicken pieces over medium-high heat until browned on both sides -- 2 minutes per side. Remove chicken to a separate plate. (Cut chicken into uniform pieces so they cook at the same rate. For the best browning, be sure the pan is hot before adding the chicken. Place chicken pieces in the saute pan so they aren't touching each other. You might need to do two separate batches.)
Saute onion in same saute pan over medium-high heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and thyme; cook 1 minute. Deglaze pan with wine, scraping up bits on bottom of pan, and reduce until evaporated. Add tomatoes, broth and olives; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Return chicken with residual juices and pastrami to the pan; simmer to thicken stew, 5 minutes. If you want it thicker, you can always dissolve 1 tablespoon of cornstarch in 1 tablespoon of water and add it slowly to the stew. Stir in lemon juice.
Serve stew over Lemon-Pepper Polenta (recipe below). Garnish with lemon zest and parsley.
CHEESY LEMON-PEPPER POLENTA
2 cups pareve milk
1 cup water
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons minced lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 ounces pareve cream cheese, cubed
Boil pareve milk and water in a large saucepan. While liquid is coming to a boil, add salt, pepper and lemon zest, and slowly start adding in cornmeal, whisking constantly until thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in pareve cream cheese until melted.
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(Cathy Pollak runs her own vineyard and winery in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. She blogs about food and wine at noblepig.com. One for the Table is Amy Ephron's online magazine that specializes in food, politics, and love. http://www.oneforthetable.com)
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