If they had Denny’s in France Chicken Rochambeau would probably be the Friday open-faced sandwich special. Hot, creamy, satisfying. Except it’s French so instead of cheese sauce it has Bearnaise and just to enhance your feelings of inadequacy they will place the toast on top of yet another sauce called Marchand de Vin. (That’s ‘wine merchant sauce’ in American) You can see it in the picture leaking from beneath like a busted fuel line in an old Chevy.
Le Comte de Rochambeau
Leave it to the French to turn diner-type comfort food into a dish called Chicken Rochambeau. It’s named after a General who fought under Washington in the Revolutionary War and I could retail his biography right here and impress you with my ability to regurgitate an encyclopedia entry but I won’t. Because you know what? I don’t think he ever ate his chicken. Chicken, yes. Chicken Rochambeau….Qu’est-ce que c’est? He probably would have loved it but I imagine he choked down the same gruel as the other patriots back at Valley Forge.
Still, the name is distinguished and the dish is filling and I hate to admit it but that extra sauce on the bottom is a really tasty touch. Damn those French! Their culinary snobbery, while annoying, is usually justified. So here I will stop rambling get on with it.
The Chicken & Ham
Chicken Rochambeau is basically a stacked sandwich with two sauces. The easy part is toasting the bread and getting the meat on top. For the ham, you may use deli slices or leftover New Year’s holiday ham. Next comes the chicken. I use a skin-on breast, salted & peppered, drizzled with oil & a squirt of lemon juice, and run in a 350-degree oven till the skin is brown & crispy about 30 minutes. To ensure crispy skin dry it off with a paper towel before doing the other stuff. Leaving the skin on adds flavor to the final dish.
And just for the record, the picture below represents what most people call ‘a chicken breast.’ It’s not. It’s actually half of a breast. So when the recipe calls for ‘a breast’ it means two of these guys.
Now to the sauces. Realistically no one will make an extra sauce unless it’s really easy so that’s how I’m making it here. This version of Marchand de Vin sauce, although lacking somewhat in haute cuisine authenticity, is really really easy and very fast. It also tastes good.
Marchand de Vin Sauce
To do it make a roux then add some shallots and next the beef broth. When it’s smooth drop in a bay leaf, ground black pepper, and some thyme (either a sprig or a pinch of powdered) and let simmer for about ten minutes to extract the bay & thyme flavors. If you have extra tarragon from the bearnaise sauce add some as well.
And here’s where it gets fast. Instead of adding a lot of red wine and waiting for it to boil down you just add a few teaspoons of a nice thick red balsamic vinegar. Cover it, strain it when you’re ready to assemble, and you have an acceptable approximation of one of the basic brown sauces of French cooking. You should make this sauce first, take it off the heat, and let the flavors develop while you prepare the rest.
Following the directions below will yield a good Bearnaise Sauce – just don’t step away while the wine vinegar mixture is simmering. The point of boiling the wine vinegar, shallots & tarragon down to a couple of tablespoons is to concentrate flavor. This is what turns the egg yolks and butter into a great sauce. And be sure and add a full tablespoon or more of finely chopped tarragon to the final sauce before serving.
Once all this is done put a spoonful of the Marchand de Vin sauce on the plate, toast on top, then ham then chicken then the Bearnaise then eat!
- For the sandwich:
- 1 chicken breast cut in half
- 4 slices artisan-style sourdough bread or French bread
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 1 cup Marchand de Vin Sauce
- 1 cup Bearnaise Sauce
- Marchand de Vin Sauce*
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- Small diced shallot
- Ground Pepper to taste
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 clove crushed garlic
- Pinch of ground thyme (or 1 sprig of fresh)
- 3 teaspoons red balsamic vinegar
- 1 can Campbell's Beef Consume (or 1¼ cup beef broth)**
- Optional tarragon if you have some leftover from the bearnaise sauce
- Bearnaise Sauce
- 3 tablespoons diced shallots
- 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons chopped tarragon
- 1 tablespoon water
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 stick butter cut into pieces and chilled plus an extra half stick if you like a thinner sauce.
- Extra chopped tarragon (about 1 to 2 tablespoons) to stir into the finished sauce.
- For the Marchand de Vin Sauce:
- Melt butter & whisk in flour to make the roux.
- Stir in diced shallot & seasonings then add beef broth & whisk until smooth.
- Let simmer on low heat for 5 or 10 minutes.
- Stir in the balsamic vinegar, cover & reserve for later.
- Strain when ready to use.
- For the Sandwich:
- Dry off the chicken breast, drizzle with oil, add salt, pepper & lemon juice.
- Place in a preheated 350-degree oven for 30 minutes or until brown.
- Remove, let cool a bit and separate into pieces suitable for laying over the toasted bread.
- For the Bearnaise:
- Put the shallots, vinegar, tarragon, salt & pepper in a saucepan and cook over low heat until only a couple of tablespoons of liquid remain.
- Strain into a container and let cool.
- Rinse out the saucepan and put the cooled liquid back in with the two egg yolks.
- Cook over low heat until thickened then start adding teaspoon-sized chunks of cold butter.
- Keep whisking in the butter bit by bit until you reach the desired thickness. In my case this is a little less than a stick, for others it may be up to a stick & a half. Play it by ear and stop when it looks right to you.
- Put a spoonful of Marchand de Vin sauce on the plate.
- Place toast on top & cover with ham and chicken.
- Cover with a ladle of Bearnaise Sauce.
**If you use Campbell's Beef Consume in the Marchand de Vin sauce be aware that it is very salty and adjust seasonings accordingly.