Eat Like Napoleon: The After-Wargame Dinner

I’m a historical perfectionist. The subtitle of this blog used to be ‘all about dice, miniatures, wargame rules and cognac‘, because I imagined that any French (Corsican) general would like French cognac – but I suddenly wondered if Napoleon really liked cognac. I just had to know.

As always, I checked this subject online. Uniforms and miniatures are important – but should be painted in the right mood, with the right type of alcohol. I found an excellent and well-researched article here, by American novelist and academic Shannon Selin. Napoleon was a Spartan – simple meals with chicken and beans and Parmesan cheese, that he ate (too) quickly, leading to indigestion. He preferred light red Bordeaux wine that he mixed with water(!). Cognac? He never drank liqueurs, according to his valet. The Courvoisier Cognac Napoleon is a fraud.

Sometimes he drank champagne, according to his valet. He also liked coffee and chocolate drink. So, keeping the spirit of the subtitle French, I changed ‘cognac’ in ‘champagne’

Besides, the famous quote

In victory, you deserve champagne, in defeat, you need it

is often ascribed to Napoleon (falsely, btw, it’s probably Churchillian, but that’s another story). I will drink coffee while painting from now on.

Food: Chicken Marengo

According to one of his valets

(…) the dish the Emperor liked best was that species of chicken fricassee which has been called poulet à la Marengo on account of this preference of the conqueror of Italy

So, next time, after a good battle, if you want to serve your opponent(s) an original Napoleon classic, prepare this:

  • Cut up a chicken as for chicken fricassee
  • Put it in a pan with about a cup of oil and some fine salt. Put the legs in first, then five minutes later add the other pieces.
  • Let it cook until it browns.
  • Add a bouquet garni (a bundle of french herbs) just before the chicken is cooked. You can add mushrooms or truffles, peeled and cut into strips.
  • When everything is finished cooking, put the chicken on a platter and keep it warm. Heat a pot of Italian sauce and gradually add the oil in which the chicken was cooked, stirring constantly. Pour the sauce over the chicken.
  • You can add fried eggs or croutons and serve it with clarified butter instead of oil.

Happy wargaming, and have a good meal!

Edit: Chicken Marengo, version 2

The perfectionist in me found an even more historical recipe today.

From Wikipedia: “This colorful story, however, is probably myth; Alan Davidson writes that there would have been no access to tomatoes at that time, and the first published recipe for the dish omits them.[3] The more plausible explanation for the origin of the dish is that it was created by a restaurant chef to honor Napoleon’s victory.”

So, if the tomatoes are omitted, what is the most historical Chicken Marengo recipe? Wikipedia again:

  • Take a young chicken, remove the neck and legs, and cut into large pieces at the joints.

  • Sauté in 30 grams (about 1 ounce) of butter and one tablespoon of olive oil, seasoning with saltpepper, and a dash of nutmeg.

  • When the pieces have browned on both sides, skim the fat and add a level tablespoon of flour and a deciliter (about 7 fluid ounces) of wine.

  • Add broth and cover, cooking over low heat until done.

  • Before removing from the fire, garnish with a pinch of chopped parsley; arrange on a serving dish and squeeze half a lemon over it. The result is an appetizing dish.[4]

Shout 3 times Vive l’Empereur before eating it.

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