Saturday, May 5, 2007

Tomb of the Emperor at Les Invalides

Here is a photograph of the beautiful tomb of Napoleon at Les Invalides. Actually, our own annual ritual of commemoration of the death of the Emperor was not a grim event, but mainly involved food. We had Napoleon pastries at teatime, and I always was in charge of cooking Chicken Marengo for dinner afterwards. A small plaque decorated with the unfinished portrait by David (my absolute favourite) held the place of honour at the table.

The recipe for Chicken Marengo, for any one who wishes to commemorate the death of the Emperor in like manner:

Traditional Chicken Marengo

2 chickens, cut in pieces, either in quarters or in smaller portions
2 cups plum tomatoes, skinned and cut

1 onion, sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, crushed
16 small white onions (pearl onions)
1/2 pound fresh sliced mushrooms
1 cup pitted black olives

Olive oil
1/4 cup butter

1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
sprigs of fresh parsley

1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 jigger brandy
juice of 1 lemon


First saute the sliced onion in olive oil until light golden in colour, then remove onion and set it aside. Add chicken to the oil and brown it on all sides.

Now add the plum tomatoes, crushed garlic cloves, thyme, bay leaf, sprigs of parsley, chicken stock and dry white wine. (For those who prefer less garlic in their dishes, use whole garlic gloves instead of crushed. If you really do not like much garlic at all, fry the whole garlic gloves with the onion, then remove them and set them aside as well.) Cover the pot and simmer for about an hour, until the meat is quite tender, even falling from the bones. When the meat is done, remove it from the pot and set it on a platter.

Reduce the sauce for about five minutes. If you want a more delicate dish, strain the sauce before you reduce it. Season it to taste with salt and pepper.

In a separate pan, saute the small white onions (pearl onions) with the sliced mushrooms in butter and lemon juice.

Now use a deep earthenware dish or other casserole dish to arrange the following:
chicken, mushrooms, small white onions and pitted black olives. Sprinkle brandy over it, then add the reduced sauce.

Heat in an oven at 350 degrees, then decorate with chopped parsley.

Serve with boiled rice.

Vive l'Empereur!

N.B. This dish originally was created for Napoleon by his cook on the battlefield of Marengo, the site of one of his earliest victories.


lady macleod said...

What a fun and informative blog. I shall be returning.


Freyashawk said...

Thank you for your comment. I am glad you enjoy it. In time, I hope to write about the entire 'Wheel of the Year' and all the holidays and festivals that appeal to me.

Fleming said...

The Chicken Marengo recipe is exactly the kind of dish I love, and it seems, miraculously, that I have all the ingredients on hand! Tonight I'll cook it. If you don't mind, I won't have a portrait of Napoleon on the table, but I will add that my father, a history teacher, admired Napoleon so much that there were more books about him on the bookshelves than any other subject. Even so, yours is the only family I know of that celebrates Napoleon's birthday.

Freyashawk said...

Well, to be honest, it was not my family per se who wished to celebrate his birthday and commemorate the day of his death, but me. My family was persuaded to honour these dates only because of the good food involved.