Comfort Food

Comfort Food

Prince Demidoff's Chicken

The Russian House of Demidov was a noble family in the 18th and 19th centuries. Their wealth came from the production of metal products including gold and silver, as well as iron. Their iron products were used all through Europe and the Palace of Westminster (London) is an example of the scale of the architecture.

Peter the Great brought them into European nobility and the family became one of the most influential merchants and earliest industrialists in the Russian Empire. They were the richest family in Russia, second only to the Russian Imperial Family. The Demidov family lost their fortunes after the Russian Revolution of 1917.

Nikita Demidov started the wealthy family. His wife, Elizaveta Aleksandrova, was a Stroganov (as in Beef Stroganoff), which was another incredibly wealthy noble family in Russia. They had two sons. Their oldest son carried on the business of making money in industry. The second son, for whom today’s recipe is named, was what we would today call a rich playboy!

Prince Anatoly and Princess Mathilde

Playboy, Anatoly Nikolaievich Demidov (1813 -1870) was a traveler and patron of the arts. He found a way into Italian nobility and was titled the Prince of San Donato. San Donato was a villa north of Florence, Italy. The whole process of making Demidov a Prince was to allow Mathilde Bonaparte (Napoléon’s niece) to marry him without losing her title of “Princess”! Anatoly grew up in Paris. His mother preferred living in Paris and eventually separated from her Russian husband and remained in Paris until the end of her life.

Living in Paris probably encouraged the many loves of Anatoly. He loved the arts and collected great works including paintings and sculptures. He loved traveling and gathered a group of explorers who were writers, scholars and artists and they visited Crimea and Russia. Their works, documenting the exploration, were magnificent and were published.

Because Demidov was rich, famous and a gourmand, it was common
for chefs to name foods after him. August Escoffier (1846-1935), a famous chef and writer penned many recipes bearing the Demidoff name. The lives of the two men didn’t cross in time, so it is likely that the recipes originated from Marie Antoine (Antonin)[2] Carême (1784 – 1833). Careme was a very famous French chef who created the ‘grand art’ of high French cuisine. He was called “The King of Chefs … and the Chef of Kings”.

As Anatoly Demidov was gadding about, often misbehaving, his wife was doing the same! Mathilde Bonaparte was a French princess and salonnière. What is that? A salonniere is one who is often a participant in salons! Salons of the time were described of groups of people brought together by a host for inspiring conversation or education … and “salon” was also the name of the place where they met. Anatoly and Mathilde were married in 1840, but he insisted on keeping his mistress, so within a couple of years, she found her muse! They divorced not long after and didn’t have children. 

When they married, Mathilde’s dowry consisted of an enormous amount of valuable jewelry. When she decided to leave Anatoly, she took her jewelry back … and stole some of his family’s jewels, too!

Oh, the webs we weave. That might have sounded like a bad thing to have done, but … Princess Mathilde’s mother was Catharine of Wurttemburg, the daughter of King Frederick of Wurttemberg. Catharine was a first cousin to Russia’s Emperor Nicholas I. Nicholas I supported Mathilde in everything she had done … including swiping the jewelry … so An atoly lived the rest of his life outside of Russia … and without his jewelry! Tsar Nicholas I awarded the couple a divorce, so Princess Mathilde could go on with her life … a lively life!

Princess Mathilde's Pink Diamond Ring
sold for $ 15.9 Million at Sotheby's in 2015

I’m sharing my recipe for this delicious chicken, which I adapted from Escoffier’s recipe, which is quite elaborate. We are going to do it an easier way and I’m using my instant pot. If you don’t have one, you can roast the chicken in the oven. The most important part is using the broth to simmer the vegetables … root vegetables! This recipe would be equally delicious using a small game hen, and you can leave the chicken whole (as I have done) or you can cut it in half or in pieces. The original recipes for this dish include slicing truffles over the vegetables! I added mushrooms to my combination and used black truffle oil. No truffles in my kitchen! However, I always have plenty of carrots and turnips! I consider those peasant food, but in the days of Prince Anatoly and Princess Mathilde, they must have been considered high cuisine!

Debbie’s Chicken Demidoff 

Use a trivet in the bottom of your instant pot to prevent the whole chicken from swimming in broth. Add 1 cup of water to the pan. Rub your whole chicken with soft butter and put some under the skin, too. Sprinkle with celery seed, chopped basil, onion powder, salt and pepper. Stuff the chicken with a couple sprigs of rosemary and small onions. All those seasonings will make the chicken savory but will also leave behind deliciously flavored broth.

Cook the chicken under pressure for 6 minutes per pound and allow the instant pot to naturally release its pressure. Carefully remove the chicken from the pot and leave the broth behind. The skin of the chicken will not be crisp and most people love that! Put the chicken on an oven-proof sheet and place it under the broiler for about 10 minutes, but watch it to make sure you don’t burn it. Then you’ll have crisp skin!

While you are browning the skin of the chicken, prepare the vegetables. Escoffier’s recipe says to cut turnips and carrots in half moon shaped slices, so I did that! I also cooked mushrooms and pearl onions. Add 3 cups of chicken stock and the vegetables to the remaining broth and simmer them in the instant pot. Don’t cook them with pressure because they will become too soft. If you don’t have tiny pearl onions, cut pieces of an onion so it will be done when the turnips and carrots are done. I used 3 carrots, 2 turnips, a dozen button mushrooms and a handful of pearl onions.

Serve the whole chicken surrounded with the vegetables and drizzle everything with black truffle oil. Finish it with a sprinkling of fresh or dried chopped parsley. It is so good. You’ll want some crusty bread to absorb the broth!

This article is part of my 2021 food project, Foods Named after Famous People! If you’d like to see similar articles, just click the menu button then click the picture that interests you. I’ll also share with a couple blog parties, so look at my short list on my sidebar. Have fun!

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