Chicken Pontalba

Chicken Pontalba is typical of the signature dishes served at old-line New Orleans Creole restaurants. This dish was created in New Orleans by Chef Paul Blange in the early days of Brennan's in the French Quarter in the early 1950s and was a well-established local favorite when we re-opened Delmonico. 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 Baroness Micaela Almonester de Pontalba, a wealthy Parisian who in 1850 built the opulent Pontalba buildings that still flank Jackson Square in the historic French Quarter. Considered the oldest apartments in the country, the buildings continue to house elegant residences upstairs and fine retail shops downstairs.
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  • Yield: 2 hearty servings, or 4 smaller servings
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1 (2 3/4 to 3-pound) chicken, rinsed and patted dry

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper

2 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 cup small diced boiled ham

8 ounces fresh white button mushrooms, stems removed, wiped clean, and thinly sliced

1/4 cup chopped green onions (green part only)

1/4 cup dry white wine

Brabant Potatoes, recipe follows

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves

Bearnaise Sauce, recipe follows

Bearnaise Sauce:

1/4 cup dry white wine

1/4 cup dry vermouth

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons chopped shallots

4 sprigs fresh tarragon, plus 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon leaves

2 teaspoons black peppercorns

2 large egg yolks

3/4 cup melted clarified butter or 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted

1 tablespoon tepid water, as needed

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon hot sauce or cayenne, or to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Cut the chicken into 6 pieces, 2 breasts, 2 thighs, and 2 legs, and remove the bones from the breasts. Season the chicken pieces on both sides with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large ovenproof skillet or saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the chicken pieces and cook until golden brown, 4 minutes on the first side and 3 minutes on the second side. Place 2 tablespoons of butter on the chicken and transfer the pan to the oven and roast until the chicken is cooked through, 18 to 20 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the ham, mushrooms, green onions, and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring, until the mushrooms give off their liquid and start to turn golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil, stirring to deglaze the bottom of the pan. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the mixture is thickened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the Brabant Potatoes and parsley, tossing gently to mix, and cook until the potatoes are warmed through, 1 to 2 minutes.
  5. To serve, place equal amounts of the vegetable mixture in the center of 4 large plates and top with the chicken. Spoon the Bearnaise Sauce over the chicken and serve immediately.

Bearnaise Sauce:

Yield: about 1 1/2 cups
  1. Combine the white wine, vermouth, red wine vinegar, shallots, tarragon sprigs, and peppercorns in a small saucepan, bring to a boil, and cook until reduced to 4 teaspoons. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve and let cool.
  2. Whisk the egg yolks in the top of a double boiler (or in a medium bowl set over a pot of barely simmering water) until thick and pale yellow. Remove the double boiler (or bowl and saucepan) from the heat and gradually add the butter, whisking constantly to thicken. Add enough tepid water to thin to pouring consistency. Add 4 teaspoons of the wine reduction, the chopped tarragon, the salt, and hot sauce, and whisk well to blend. Adjust seasoning to taste.
  3. Serve immediately, or cover and keep warm for up to 10 minutes, whisking occasionally to keep from separating.
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