Monday, December 26, 2011

Retro Recipe: Chicken Marengo

Book by Andrew Uffindel; available on Amazon
Ahh, Chicken Marengo -- that welcome, home-style family culinary tradition. Whenever we come up north, Chicken Marengo will surely be the headliner one night. The myth has been debunked that this dish was originally created on the evening of Napoleon's victory at Marengo in the early 1800s. What is known, however, is that the original dish contained crayfish and truffles(!), and that it rapidly conquered Paris, becoming a renowned symbol of French haute cuisine.

In my family, it's not at that level. We're downright bourgeois about how we approach Chicken Marengo. This is hard to mess up, and feeds a crowd (there's also a ton of sauce in this version). Here's a version adapted from my mom's yellowing, taped-together, oil-stained, hand-annotated recipe which has somehow never been lost amidst life's grand clutter:

[depending on how you cut the chicken, 6-plus servings]

Chicken Marengo
2 1/2 to 3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Flour for dredging
2 T olive oil
2 medium onions, peeled and cut into 6 or 8 wedges
1 clove garlic, crushed
6 oz. of your favorite mushrooms (baby bellas work well)
1/4 cup white wine or vermouth or sherry
3 to 4 cups chicken broth or stock
1 small can of tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper 
1/2 t. dried marjoram
1 t. sugar
1 tomato, cut into thin wedges
Parsley (optional - I like flat leaf)

  1. Prepare the chicken. I like to rinse and trim it, then individually pound out the chicken one piece at a time in a plastic bag to even thickness. Make sure you dry it with paper towels. 
  2. Heat a bit of the oil in a large Dutch oven. Dredge chicken pieces in flour (I like to season the flour with a little onion salt, garlic powder, pepper, paprika, and a few marjoram leaves).
  3. Saute the chicken on medium-high, ensuring pieces don't touch, letting the pieces brown and caramelize (don't let it get too hot). As you are done, set the chicken pieces together in a covered dish. This keeps in all the wonderful moisture.  
  4. Add another bit of olive oil, then put in the onions to sweat, scraping up the nice bits from the chicken. Add in the garlic and mushrooms, and saute until soft and mushrooms are letting out liquid. Throw in about a tablespoon of flour, mixing through to let the flour cook in a bit.  
  5. Now add your wine, chicken broth, tomato paste, bay leaf, salt, pepper, marjoram and sugar. Gently place chicken back into the pot, and stir gently. Place tomatoes on top, reduce to a low simmer, and leave it along it for at least 35 minutes. 
  6. Serve over whole wheat broad noodles, generously sprinkling fresh parsley on top. While it's extra carbs, a really good artisan bread is nice to have to dredge in the abundant sauce! 

Note: You can also transfer the dish at Step 5 to a crockpot and put it on low or warm for the whole afternoon. The chicken will get more tender. This also freezes very well. 
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