Thursday, August 12, 2010

Julia Child’s Napoleon’s Chicken

I just watched “The French Chef” on the Cooking Channel. This show is a hoot! Julia came out with a “Napoleonic sword” that looked more like a machete and started to cut up a frying chicken with it. She related the legend of the origin of the recipe for Chicken Marengo as created by Napoleon’s chef at the battle of Marengo from ingredients on hand. When she flamed the Cognac, it looked like the Fire Dept. should have been called. Whoosh!

Since this is the Italian countryside where Napoleon was trying to regain control of Italy from the Austrians, the foodstuffs available were: chicken, crayfish, olive oil, olives, bread, eggs, mushrooms, tomatoes, garlic, onions, wine, local herbs, and Napoleon’s own flask of Cognac. Food fit for an Emperor!

I looked all over for the recipe, but couldn’t find it. There are many versions of this recipe available, but none of them were true to what Julia made. I wrote this from notes and memory immediately after my search after watching the show.

Julia Child’s Napoleon’s Chicken
1 chicken cut into pieces for frying
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup of dry white wine
1 tablespoon of Napoleon's cognac (or Brandy)
2 medium onions, diced

2 lbs peeled, cored, seeded and diced tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic, crushed (Julia used a garlic press.)
1 tsp Italian Seasoning, c/s (This is exactly what she used from a jar!)

8 large white mushroom caps with stems
1 Tbsp. EVOO
½ cup dry white wine

8 rounds of ¼” thick sliced Italian bread
(Julia used a loaf of square sliced white bread, removed the crusts, and cut it in half into triangles.)
12 large shrimp, shelled and deveined
(If you can find large crawdad tails, use them!)

4 eggs
1 teaspoon chopped, fresh parsley
salt and freshly ground black pepper
black olives

Rinse and pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large seasoned skillet (a chicken fryer with 3” to 4” high sides) over medium high heat until hot. Add chicken and brown well on all sides.

Add white wine, cover and simmer 10 minutes. Add cognac and flame. Add onions, cover and simmer another 10 minutes. Remove chicken to platter.

Remove stems from mushroom caps and dice. Reserve caps. Spoon some grease from pan. Sauté garlic and mushroom stems. Add tomatoes, white wine, and Italian seasoning stirring up all the chicken bits. Salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a high simmer. Return the chicken pieces to the skillet, folding into the tomato sauce. Reduce heat, cover and simmer gently for 15 – 20 minutes until chicken is no longer pink.

While the chicken is cooking, heat a saucepan over high heat with EVOO and white wine. Add the mushrooms. Toss lightly a few times until they are tender, but not soggy or overcooked. The caps should be white and retain their shape. Set aside and keep warm.

Heat a frying pan with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil (may need more) until hot, but not smoking. Lightly fry the rounds of bread until slightly browned. Set them aside on paper towels. Keep warm in oven.

Add the shrimp to the hot oil and fry until they just curl up, about 1-2 minutes. Set them aside on paper towels. Keep warm in oven.

Heat another saucepan over high heat with EVOO at least an inch deep. Poach the eggs one at a time in the hot oil for a minute or so, lightly stirring with large spoon to keep egg together. Remove with a slotted spoon and set on paper towel to drain.

Putting it all together:
Set chicken pieces on serving platter. Spoon the tomato sauce over the chicken pieces and garnish with black olives.

Place the eight croutons around the chicken. Place an egg on every other crouton and garnish with parsley. Place 3 shrimp on each of the other 4 croutons.


  1. ooooh this sounds so so SO good!! I loved Julia, congrats to you for making this dish!!

  2. This is the recipe I was looking for. Previously I read others that lacked ingredients and a detailed description of the procedure. This is the best one so far. Thanks.

    Javier Cuevas

  3. Your welcome Andrea and Javier. I watched the episode and took real good notes.

  4. I just watched this episode over the past weekend. It was gross to see how different cooking shows used to be. She not once washed her hands during the whole show, she used the same utensils that were used to handle both raw and cooked meat, and she also dumped the cooked shrimp back in the dish she had them in when they were raw. She was also a very scattered, frantic, messy cook just compared to shows these days. Much cleaner and organized.

    1. Those days we weren't paranoid about germs, yet curiously enough, the world wasn't strewn with the sick and the dead, either. In fact, there are several studies that indicate that excessive cleaning and obsessive concern with eradicating all household pathogens has increases the incidence of food allergies as well as respiratory and skin allergies. Of course, nowadays, when processors cut corners with breeding, sanitation, and storage, we do have more to worry about now than we did back in the '60s.

  5. Thanks for your comment Anonymous. The year was 1963 and she pioneered the first TV cooking show. Kitchen sanitation has come a long way since then. As a student nurse, I also cringe at the lack of sanitary methods. Her recipes are timeless and the knowledge and techniques she shared are valuable. I find her shows to be highly entertaining and educational.:-)

  6. Great recipe; I've previously cooked recipes that were a pale imitation of this and wondered what Napoleon got so excited about. Now it makes more sense!

    Anonymous above, you need to drink a nice big glass of CHILL OUT. It's a kitchen, not a surgery. That's how *everybody* used to cook until not long ago and somehow we managed to survive. If Julia Child (or your great-grandma) saw us cooking today, she might think we've got a bad case of OCD :)

  7. Thank you so much for writing down this recipe. I saw the show and we had it on our dvr and accidentally erased it before I could write it down.
    I agree with you that Julia was a hoot! She clearly had a great time doing her show, and she taught us all to just roll up our sleeves and get to it in the kitchen.

  8. At the 1975 Boston Book Fair I purchased a copy of the recently published From Julia Child’s Kitchen (signed by Julia and Paul Child). Poulet sauté Marengo can be found on p. 195.

    Anita, Wisconsin Librarian

    1. Thank you Anita, for a source for the published recipe. Now to find that cookbook. :-)