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!