French Chicken Marengo

This rustic French dish was created to celebrate Napoleon's victory at the battle of Marengo in Piedmont, Northern Italy. After the battle Napoleon's troops sacked the countryside for chickens, plum tomatoes, oranges and local wine. This is the dish that Napoleon's chef came up with. If you can use authentic ingredients, it will add a touch of fun for your guests if you tell the story:

Make The Marinade:

Take 1 Tbsp. olive oil, the juice of one freshly squeezed orange (not from a carton of any kind), half a bottle of dry Piedmont white wine (or similar), 1 Tbsp. of runny honey, salt and black pepper. Work these ingredients together and smear all over 4 skin on chicken quarters in a bowl. Cover with cling film (cellophane wrap) and set aside somewhere cool (not the refrigerator) for two hours.

Prep The Herbs, etc:

You will need a good long sprig of fresh rosemary, five or six fresh leaves of sage, a small bunch of basil and two bay leaves. Strip the rosemary and chop roughly, tear the sage leaves into halves, roughly chop the basil and break the backs of the bay leaves. Put all but the bay leaves into a bouquet garni.

The Dish:

Into a deep pot, chop an onion and one clove of garlic per chicken quarter (or guest) and gently saute in olive oil. When the onions are clear, turn the heat right up and add the pancetta, fry for half a minute then add the chicken. Season the chicken now before it browns. Fry the chicken by constantly but gently moving it around the pan until it has colour all over. Now add two cans of Italian peeled plum tomatoes and all the juice. Roughly break the tomatoes over the meat.

Add about a third of a bottle of dry Piedmont red wine and stir until the sauce covers all the chicken. Now hang your bouquet garni into the sauce and add the bay leaves directly to the sauce.

Put a lid on the pot and simmer very gently for two hours turning the chicken occasionally. Just before the end of cooking add the zest of half an orange.


Serve in deep bowls with French bread and the two half bottles of wine you have left!


This is the authentic, original recipe. Don't be tempted by "cook book" versions of this recipe which tell you to use skinned meat, half the flavour comes from the fat in the skin seeping into the sauce. Also never be tempted by false version that tell you to use mushrooms (very nasty!) or not to use white wine in the marinade and red in the sauce. Lastly, there are numerous versions of this recipe around which don't even bother with the marinade stage - try mine then theirs - then write mine down.

Guilty tip - it's actually even better when re-heated the next day if left overnight in the pot.

Source: My mother!

By Tony from Birmingham, UK


March 27, 20090 found this helpful

I can't pay your way over, but if you'll bring the fresh herbs, I'll provide the meat, a place for you to stay, and a tour of East Tennessee, southwest Virginia and western North Carolina. I'll pick you up at the airport. The wine may be limited to a choice of red or white, though we're getting better at that. That recipe sounds SO good.

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