Chicken Marengo: “Not Tonight, Josephine...”
And when was the last time you tasted Chicken Marengo? This is one of those dishes, which although undoubtably popular fodder for 1960’s and 70’s cookbooks (those of a Carrier bent, with a technicolor hue), is now quite probably slipping into the culinary dustbin of history. Which is not suprising, as it’s essentially Chicken Provençale, but garnished with crayfish, croûtons and- wait for it- fried eggs.
The old story goes- and it is a story- that Napoleon’s chef Durand, forced to forage for food after the Battle of Marengo, rustled up this little number using the limited ingredients he had to spare. Napoleon liked it so much, it became his favourite dish and had it served after every battle- to bring him luck.
The Larousse Gastronomique gives a recipe: Chicken is sautéed in oil and the pan is deglazed with white wine and a thickened veal gravy, ie a demi-glace. A crushed clove of garlic is added and the dish strained.
The chicken is placed upon a dish and garnished with 8 sautéed mushrooms, 4 very small fried eggs, 4 large cooked crayfish, 4 heart-shaped croûtons fried in butter and 8 slices of truffle, sautéed again in butter.
Finally, the dish is coated in the reduced sauce and sprinkled with finely chopped parsley.
And Jiminy Cricket, there’s a recipe in Barbara Cartland’s The Romance of Food, which I covered- with love- in a previous post. Babs (in reality her private chef, Nigel Gordon) leaves out the eggs and the crayfish, and creates a dish swimming in a sea of soupy tomato glaze.
Photograph by Norman Parkinson (yes, really!) “taken under the personal supervision of the author at her home in Hertfordshire, using her own backgrounds and ornaments”.
But where- o where- are the heart shaped croûtons?