Poulet Rochambeau (Chicken Rochambeau)
The tradition of Réveillon, the dinner parties held by the French on Christmas Eve is alive and well in New Orleans. In order to stay awake until Midnight Mass, French families would draw out dinner right up till it was time to leave for church.
That means lots of good Creole-French food, of which Chicken Rochambeau is one of my favorites dishes. This is a great dish to make around holiday time because it calls for roast chicken, and there’s bound to be lots of roast chicken or turkey leftovers around many a New Orleans household at Christmas time. Traditionally, this Louisiana Creole dish is half a chicken (breast, leg, and thigh), which is boned , leaving the skin intact. The chicken is then roasted and served as a layered dish – first a slice of baked ham, followed by a brown, Rochambeau sauce made of chicken stock and brown sugar, with a final nap of Béarnaise sauce covering the chicken
Personally, I like to serve this dish with a rich Marchand de Vin Sauce. which I used in this recipe. The traditional brown sugar sauce is listed below, if you want to serve the dish in that fashion.
Trying to find the origins of this dish is just as elusive as the Scarlet Pimpernel. Antoine’s, the oldest family-run restaurant in the United States, established in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1840, is famous for this chicken dish. The story is that the restaurateur Antoine Alciatore, a French immigrant and the restaurant’s namesake, created the dish to honor the Comte du Rochambeau.
The most famous Frenchman known in America was the Marquis de Lafayette, an American Revolutionary hero who has parks named in his honor throughout the United States. However there is another French aristocrat who fought on the side of the Americans during the Revolutionary War and has been long neglected by history and his name was Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, Comte de Rochambeau (1725 – 1807). In 1780, he was was given the rank of Lieutenant General along with 7,000 troops to help George Washington defeat the British. Eventually his forces left Rhode Island for Connecticut to join Washington on the Hudson River. This culminated in the march of their combined forces, the siege of Yorktown, and (along with the aid of the Marquis de Lafayette) the defeat of Cornwallis.
Upon his return to France, Rochambeau was honored by King Louis XVI and was made governor of the province of Picardy. He supported the French Revolution of 1789, and on 28 December 1791 he and Nicolas Luckner became the last two generals created Marshal of France by Louis XVI. When the French Revolutionary Wars broke out, he commanded the Armée du Nord for a time in 1792 but resigned after several reversals to the Austrians. He was arrested during the Reign of Terror in 1793–94 and narrowly escaped the guillotine. He was subsequently pensioned by Napoleon and died at Thoré-la-Rochette during the Empire.
A statue of Rochambeau by sculptor Ferdinand Hamar was unveiled in Washington, D.C.’s Lafayette Square, by President Theodore Roosevelt on 24 May 1902, as a gift from France to the United States. The ceremony was made the occasion of a great demonstration of friendship between the two nations. France was represented by ambassador Jules Cambon, Admiral Fournier and General Henri Brugère, as well as a detachment of sailors and marines from the battleship Gaulois. Representatives of the Lafayette and Rochambeau families also attended.
In 1934, American A. Kingsley Macomber donated a statue of General Rochambeau to the city of Newport, Rhode Island. The sculpture is a replica of a statue in Paris. It depicts the scene in Newport at the time when General Rochambeau departed with his army to join General Washington to march on to the Siege of Yorktown.
Ironically, Lafayette Square in New Orleans has neither a statue of Lafayette, nor one in Rochambeau’s honor, but the city does have a way of creating monumental culinary dishes. Antoine’s Restaurant in New Orleans is famous for its Poulet Rochambeau.
4 slices French bread toast, 1/2 inch thick rounds, toasted under the broiler on both sides
4 large slices roast chicken
4 large slices boiled or baked ham
1 Tablespoon minced parsley
Dash Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup Béarnaise Sauce
1 cup Marchand de Vin Sauce (See Recipe Below)
Parsley, finely chopped for garnish (See Recipe Below)
Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and fry the ham. Warm the chicken slices.
In the center of two heated serving plates, place the French bread rounds. Next, place the ham and top with a generous portion of Marchand de Vin. Place the chicken on top of the Marchand de Vin, finish the dish with a generous portion of Bearnaise. Garnish with the chopped parsley.
Marchand de Vin Sauce
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup finely minced ham
1/2 cup finely chopped scallions
1/2 cup finely chopped mushrooms
2 Tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups beef stock
3/4 cup red wine
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Dash of Cayenne
To make the Marchand de Vin Sauce: Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan and sauté the ham, scallions, mushrooms, and garlic over medium heat until the whites of the onions are translucent. Add the flour and cook, stirring often, for about 5-7 minutes. Add the beef stock and red wine and bring to a boil. Add seasonings. Let simmer for about 40 minutes. The sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Set sauce aside until ready to serve.
2 sticks unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons finely chopped shallots
2 Tablespoons tarragon vinegar
1 teaspoon crushed black peppercorns
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
2 egg yolks
1 Tablespoon cold water
To Make the Béarnaise Sauce: Add the butter in a small heavy saucepan and let it melt slowly. Skim off the foam that rises to the surface. Heat the shallots, vinegar, peppercorns, salt and tarragon in another saucepan and cook until all the liquid evaporates. Remove from the heat and let the saucepan cool slightly. Add the egg yolks and the water to the shallots.
Return the saucepan to the stove and stir the yolk mixture vigorously over very low heat. Do not overheat or the mixture will curdle. Remove the saucepan from the heat and place it on a cold surface. Add the melted butter, about 2 tablespoons at a time, stirring vigorously after each addition. After incorporating the butter, remove from the heat and set aside until ready to serve.
For the Chicken Rochambeau with Brown Sugar Sauce
Brown Sugar Sauce
1 stick unsalted butter
3 Tablespoons all purpose flour
1 cup light brown sugar
Salt, to taste
1/4 cup dry vermouth
Prepare the brown sugar sauce by melting the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and whisk until mixture is a caramel color. Slowly whisk in the brown sugar, salt and vermouth. Increase heat to medium high and whisk constantly until mixture is slightly thickened, and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 3 minutes.
Prepare the toasts, ham , chicken and Béarnaise sauce as indicated above.
To assemble: Spoon a portion of the brown sugar sauce to the center of the plate. Place the French bread toast on top of the brown sugar sauce and add the ham on top of the bread. Top the ham with a generous amount Béarnaise sauce. Garnish with parsley and serve.
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