Chicken Pontalba

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Chicken Pontalba is one of the many signature dishes served at old-line New OrleansMicaela_Pontalba Creole restaurants. This dish was created in New Orleans by Chef Paul Blange in the early days of Brennan’s in the French Quarter during the early 1950s and was a well-established local favorite when the Delmonico re-opened. The recipe is very similar to Chicken Clemenceau, but without the inclusion of green peas. The name Pontalba denotes richness, as the dish is named for  Micaela Leonarda Antonia Almonester y Rojas, Baroness de Pontalba (1795- 1874) who was a wealthy New Orleans-born aristocrat, businesswoman, and real estate developer, and one of the most dynamic personalities of that city’s history.

As  the wealthiest woman in New Orleans she built the opulent Pontalba buildings in 1848, that still flank Jackson Square in the historic French Quarter. The construction of the Pontalba Buildings cost more than $300,000  and she was a constant visitor to the construction sites, often supervising the work on horseback.

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The cast-ironwork decorating the balconies were also her personal design and she had her initials “AP” carved into the center of each section. Considered the oldest apartments in Potatoes Pontalba wrought ironthe country, the buildings continue to house elegant residences upstairs and fine retail shops downstairs. The Baroness was also instrumental in the name change of Place d’Armes to Jackson Square; as well as the decision to convert it from a parade ground to a formal garden. It was alleged that when she was landscaping the garden, she threatened the mayor with a shotgun after he tried to prevent her from tearing down two rows of trees.

Andrew_Jackson_(14130889).jpgShe also helped finance the bronze equestrian statue of Andrew Jackson which features prominently in the square.Legend has it that her friend Andrew Jackson, once failed to raise his hat to the Baroness, so when she funded the statue baring his likeness she insisted that sculptor Clark Mills depict Jackson forever raising his hat toward her apartment building. Probably not true, but it is a great  story.

The Baroness  was also known to give  lavish parties and served rich creative Creole dishes to her guests during these affairs. And in that same  spirit , what could be any more different than the simple ingredients of cooked chicken napped with Bearnaise sauce all on a bed of deep fried potatoes, diced ham, mushrooms, onions, garlic and white wine? Chicken Pontalba, of course, which is a rich and lavish dish that is truly Creole in creation  and meant to be enjoyed as fine  dining.

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Serves 2

Ingredients:
2 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, lightly pounded
1 large baking potato, cut into 1/2- inch dice
3/4 cup ham, diced
1 small white onion, diced
1 1/2 cups baby Portabella mushrooms, thickly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 Tablespoons Italian parsley, minced
1/2 cup all purpose flour
Kosher salt, to taste
Ground  black pepper, to taste
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
Vegetable oil

For the Bearnaise Sauce , click here for the recipe 

Directions:
Preheat an oven to 400 ° F.

Toss the Potatoes in 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and season liberally with kosher salt and black pepper. Layer on a baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes or until golden and crispy.

In the meantime, season the flour with salt, black pepper, and cayenne. Season the thighs also, then dredge pieces in the flour.

When the potatoes are almost ready, heat 2 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a saute pan. When the fat is hot, brown the chicken quickly on both sides, place on a ovenproof dish and finish in the oven.

In the same saute pan, add the ham and onions, saute until golden brown and the onions are tender. Add the mushrooms, garlic, and a tablespoon more butter. Saute for 2 to 3 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the wine, and cook until the alcohol evaporates.

Fold in the brabant potatoes from the oven and 1 tablespoon of the parsley, taste for seasonings. Just before serving, incorporate the last tablespoon of butter.

Split the potato mixture between two heated plates. Top each with a chicken thigh, and finish with a generous drizzle of Bearnaise sauce. Garnish with minced parsley.

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Chicken Clemençeau

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This dish is one of the famous chicken creations of New Orleans, along with Chicken Bon Femme , Chicken Pontalba, and Chicken Rochambeau. It’s named for Georges Clemençeau (1841-1929), a French statesman who became the French Premier in 1906. He served as theabout-romania-and-her-people-georges-clemenceau.jpg Prime Minister of France from 1906 to 1909, and again from 1917 to 1920. In favor of a total victory over the German Empire, he militated for the restitution of Alsace-Lorraine to France. He was one of the principal architects of the Treaty of Versailles at the France Peace Conference of 1919. Nicknamed “Père la Victoire” (Father Victory) or “Le Tigre” (The Tiger).

My dish is based on version that was first  served at but Galatoire’s , one of the  grandest and oldest Creole restaurants in  New Orleans. Galatoire’s  was founded in 1905 by Jean Galatoire, and distinguished itself on Bourbon Street from its humble beginnings. From the small village of Pardies, France, Jean Galatoire brought recipes and traditions inspired by the familial dining style of his homeland to create the menu and ambiance of the internationally-renowned restaurant. In its fifth generation, it is the Galatoire family and descendants who have carried the tradition of New Orleans’ fine dining restaurants and influenced its evolution.
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So how did this dish come  about ? Well, Clemençeau is credited with bringing France from the brink of defeat to victory in World War I. In part, he did so by convincing the Allies to unify their efforts through the leadership of a supreme commander, previously unheard of among nations of the day.Equally unheard of was the amalgamation of chicken, fried potatoes, garlic, mushrooms, and canned peas into a single dish, as was achieved at Galatoire’s in the 1920’s to delicious effect. And so the dish was  named  in his honor.

At once glamorous and homey, the nostalgic dish  is still on the menu at many old-line dining rooms in New Orleans, an enduring favorite that deserves to be revisited. Authenticity requires using a young fowl known as a poussin or a spring chicken, but it is fine to substitute a small fryer or even boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

And with that in mind, I made a few variations  to the original recipe. Chicken breast were used here, mainly because it was what I had on hand at the time. Also note that Brabant Potatoes, are usually fried, and in this  recipe, I baked them instead with great time  saving results.The original  recipe also called  for  canned baby peas (petit pois), but  I opted for fresh baby green peas, lightly blanched, because I  like bright  vegetables on my plate.

To complete  this meal, serve this dish with a full-bodied Chardonnay.

Bon Appétit!

Serves 2

Ingredients:
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 chicken breasts, lightly pounded
2 cups mushrooms, thickly sliced
1 small white onion, chopped
2 scallions, sliced
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
Kosher salt, to taste
Black Pepper, to taste
3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Yukon Gold  potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 Tablespoons Italian parsley, minced
1 cup fresh petite green peas, blanched

Directions:
Preheat an oven to 400 º F.

Toss the diced potatoes in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and season liberally with kosher salt and black pepper. Place on a baking sheet, and into the oven for 35 minutes, occasionally turning them with a spatula for even browning.

When the potatoes are almost golden brown, heat 2 tablespoons of the butter, and 1 tablespoons of the oil in an ovenproof skillet. When the fat is bubbling and hot, add the chicken breasts, which have been seasoned with kosher salt and black pepper, brown quickly on both sides, remove to a plate.

In the same hot pan add the mushrooms, saute until golden brown. Add the onions and garlic, season with a little salt and pepper, saute until the onions are almost tender and have some color. Deglaze the pan with the white wine, cook for 2 minutes. Stir in 1 tablespoons  of the parsley.Place the chicken back in the pan and cover with some of the “sauce.” Place in the oven until the chicken is just cooked through.

To serve, divide the Brabant potatoes between two warmed plates, making a pile in the center, place a chicken breast on each.Melt the remaining butter into the sauce, and fold in the peas until just warmed through. Divide the sauce over the two chicken breasts and garnish with the remaining parsley.

TODAY.com Parenting Team FC Contributor