The foundation of this cooking method is an “à l’Ivoire” presentation (poached poultry breasts with white sauce.)
The white sauce, though, is modified with the addition of a meat glaze or a veal stock.
It is named after the 17th century doctor, Pierre Chirac.
Pierre Chirac was born 1650 in Conques, Aveyron (now a départment in southern France, near Montpellier). In 1678, when he was about to enter the priesthood, he was encouraged by the Chancellor of Montpellier University to study medicine instead, which he did, becoming a faculty member of the university in 1682 at the age of 32. He taught until 1687, then went into practice, then in 1692 became an army doctor. In 1706, he became the private doctor for the Duc d’Orleans, travelled with him, then moved to Paris for the remainder of his life. In 1715, the Duc d’Orleans became Regent of Louis XIV, and thus Chirac became the young Louis’s doctor. Chirac died 1 March 1732.
He was not necessarily seen, though, by all of his contemporaries as particularly competent.
Marguerite de Navarre (aka Elizabeth-Charlotte, Duchesse d’Orleans) recorded in her memoirs how the Dauphine of Burgundy, Adelaide of Savoy, died under his care:
“She [Adelaide of Savoy] was delicate and of rather a weak constitution. Dr. Chirac said in her last illness that she would recover; and so she probably would have done if they had not permitted her to get up when the measles had broken out upon her, and she was in a copious perspiration. Had they not blooded her in the foot she might have been alive now (1716.) Immediately after the bleeding, her skin, before as red as fire, changed to the paleness of death, and she became very ill. When they were lifting her out of bed I told them it was better to let the perspiration subside before they blooded her. Chirac and Fagon, however, were obstinate and laughed at me.
Old Maintenon said to me angrily, “Do you think you know better than all these medical men?”
“No, Madame,” I replied; “and one need not know much to be sure that the inclination of nature ought to be followed; and since that has displayed itself it would be better to let it have way, than to make a sick person get up in the midst of a perspiration to be blooded.”
She shrugged up her shoulders ironically. I went to the other side and said nothing.” [From: Marguerite de Navarre. “The Entire Memoirs of Louis XIV. and the Regency”. Section XIII. Adelaide of Savoy, The Second Dauphine.] ‡
And the inimitable memoirist, the Louis de Rouvroy (aka Duc de Saint-Simon), 1675 – 1755, character-assassin to the stars of the time, directly blamed Chirac’s jealously of a rival doctor named Garus for the death of the Duchesse de Berry:
“At the extremity to which she [the Duchesse de Berry] had arrived, the doctors knew not what to do; everybody was tried. An elixir was spoken of, discovered by a certain Garus, which made much stir just then, and the secret of which the King has since bought. Garus was sent for and soon arrived. He found Madame la Duchesse de Berry so ill that he would answer for nothing. His remedy was given, and succeeded beyond all hopes. Nothing remained but to continue it. Above all things, Garus had begged that nothing should, on any account, be given to Madame la Duchesse de Berry except by him, and this had been most expressly commanded by M. le Duc and Madame la Duchesse d’Orleans. Madame la Duchesse de Berry continued to be more and more relieved and so restored, that Chirac, her regular doctor, began to fear for his reputation, and taking the opportunity when Garus was asleep upon a sofa, presented, with impetuosity, a purgative to Madame la Duchesse de Berry, and made her swallow it without saying a word to anybody, the two nurses standing by, the only persons present, not daring to oppose him.
The audacity of this was as complete as its villainy, for M. le Duc and Madame la Duchesse d’Orleans were close at hand in the salon. From this moment to that in which the patient fell into a state worse than that from which the elixir had drawn her, there was scarcely an interval. Garus was awaked and called. Seeing this disorder, he cried that a purgative had been given, and whatever it might be, it was poison in the state to which the princess was now reduced. He wished to depart, he was detained, he was taken to Madame la Duchesse d’Orleans. Then followed a great uproar, cries from Garus, impudence and unequalled hardihood of Chirac, in defending what he had done.
He could not deny it, for the two nurses had been questioned, and had told all. Madame la Duchesse de Berry drew near her end during this debate, and neither Chirac nor Garus could prevent it. She lasted, however, the rest of the day, and did not die until about midnight. Chirac, seeing the death-agony advance, traversed the chamber, made an insulting reverence at the foot of the bed, which was open, and wished her “a pleasant journey” (in equivalent terms), and thereupon went off to Paris. The marvel is that nothing came of this, and that he remained the doctor of M. le Duc d’Orleans as before!” [From Louis de Rouvroy, Duc de Saint-Simon. The Entire Memoirs. Louis XIV, His Court and The Regency, Chapter 98.]
‡ [As a titillating sidenote, de Navarre goes on to add that the mourning in some circles was short lived: “This young lady, so fascinating and so dear to the King, betrayed, nevertheless, the secrets of the State by informing her father, then Duke of Savoy, and our enemy, of all the military projects which she found means to read. The King had the proofs of this by the letters which were found in the Princess’s writing case after her death. “That little slut,” said he to Madame Maintenon, ‘has deceived us.'”]