In June of 1800, Napoleon Bonaparte led the French army to a decisive victory against the Austrian army in Marengo (present-day Italy), an important battle during the French Revolutionary Wars. Legend has it that the French supply carts failed to catch up to their soldiers, and so Napoleon’s chef had to forage for ingredients in the local village. Returning with a chicken, olives, and some crawfish, the chef threw them together into the dish now known as Chicken Marengo, and served it with grilled bread topped with a fried egg. Napoleon, who was known to have bad digestion due to wolfing down his meals, enjoyed the dish so much that he requested it after every subsequent battle.
History has its fair share of eccentric leaders. Ivan the Terrible (1530-1584) had three of his eight(!) wives banished to spend their remaining days in an abbey, and legend has it he had an elephant executed when it refused to bow before him. Grigori Rasputin (1869-1916) supposedly had awful table manners and an insatiable sweet tooth. US Presidents have been fairly interesting too, from Chester A. Arthur, who wore several changes of pants each day, to James A. Garfield, who could write with both hands at the same time, in different languages (Latin and Greek). Ulysses S. Grant smoked over 20 cigars a day (but later succumbed to throat cancer). FDR supposedly enjoyed driving around in Al Capone’s armored car, which had been seized by the US Treasury Dept when Capone was imprisoned for tax evasion. Also, two US Presidents (Carter and Reagan) have claimed to witness UFOs.
Today, Chicken Marengo is only rarely made with crawfish – shrimp are a fair substitute – but given that crawfish season just started here in the Florida panhandle, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to try the real deal. Instructions for both shrimp and crawfish are provided below!
Chicken Marengo (Gluten-free, Perfect Health Diet, Paleo, Primal, Whole30 adaptable)
2 tbsp white rice flour, gluten-free all-purpose flour, or Otto’s cassava flour
4 bone-in chicken thighs, skins removed (boneless skinless thighs okay)
2 tbsp butter or ghee
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped onion (about 1/2 medium onion)
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 (14.5oz) can diced tomatoes, fire-roasted prefered
1/2 lb white mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 tsp salt, more to taste
1/2 tsp pepper, more to taste
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 pinch ground nutmeg
1/2 lb cooked crawfish (or raw, tail-on shrimp)
1 (3.5oz) can black olives, drained
1 (3.5oz) can green olives, drained
2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
1. In a mixing bowl, toss the chicken with the white rice flour until coated; reserve the remaining flour. In a deep skillet or dutch oven, warm the butter and olive oil over medium heat until shimmering, about 1 minute. Add the thighs and brown on each side until slightly crispy, about 3 minutes per side. Remove the chicken and set aside.
2. Add the onion to the skillet and saute until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the leftover white rice flour, and stir to combine. Saute until the flour turns golden, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes; stir in the tomato paste, diced tomatoes, and mushrooms until well-mixed. Add the wine, broth, salt, pepper, oregano, thyme, and nutmeg; stir to combine. As the mixture returns to a simmer, return the chicken to the skillet, cover, and reduce heat to low. Simmer until the chicken is just tender, about 10 minutes.
3. Uncover the stew and add the crawfish (or shrimp) and both sets of olives. Simmer, uncovered, until the crawfish is heated through, or the shrimp is pink and curled, about 5 minutes. Stir in the parsley, add salt and pepper to taste, then serve.
** For Whole30, substitute the white wine with 2 tbsp white wine vinegar and 1/2 cup water.