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Napoleon’s Chicken Marengo Two Ways: A 30 Minute Dinner and a Pasta Sauce

I love a recipe with a past and this simple and satisfying Chicken dish is a prime example.  And it may be the only time when you can say you’re serving Chicken fit for an Emperor, in this case Napoleon.  There’s a myth attached to the dish:  It was first made in 1800 after Napoleon defeated the Austrian Army at the Battle of Marengo which was fought south of Turin, Italy.  The story goes that Napoleon’s Chef, a man named Dunand, foraged in the town for ingredients because his supply wagons were too far off.  Dunand was said to have created the dish with whatever he could find. Legend has it that Napoleon liked it so much that he had it served after every battle.  Napoleon was also superstitious because once Dunand was better supplied he substituted mushrooms for the crayfish he’d used in the original version and added wine as well.  Napoleon refused to eat it, believing the change would also change his luck.         

The Battle of Marengo 1800

This story has since been debunked:  The food historian Alan Davidson noted that there would have been no access to the tomatoes essential to the dish.  He believes it was created by a restaurant chef to honor Napoleon’s victory.  Whatever the truth, it’s a really easy to dish to make and I discovered it has ‘legs’ as well.  When we came back to the city after our two week Christmas holiday at the beach, I brought the leftover Marengo with us.  My New Year’s resolution has been to shop our Freezer and Refrigerator before going anywhere else. I was astonished to see what was on offer in each of these when I did my year end check of the inventory.  There was enough food in the freezer for two people to last a month.  There were also a staggering number of bits and pieces of sauces and leftovers in the fridge. So with part two of the Marengo, I browned some Spicy Italian Chicken Sausage and added it along with 2 cups of tomato sauce to the rich Chicken stew.  The result, served over Angel Hair pasta topped with grated Reggiano Parmigiano, made a great weeknight dinner.  The original Chicken Marengo recipe called for a whole cut-up chicken, which you most certainly can use here following the recipe and increasing the cooking time the chicken spends in the oven.  I used Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts simply because in keeping with my New Year’s resolution, I was “shopping”  for what I had on hand.  Here are the recipes:


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