Chicken Lyonnaise

The eighth film in our 12 Days of Oscar series is the last one before we discuss this year’s nominees.  The 1997 film Titanic is a fictional account of the sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912.  It tells the story of Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet), a first class passenger engaged to marry the wealthy and snobbish Caledon “Cal” Hockley (Billy Zane) and Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio), a third class passenger who won his ticket on the Titanic in a lucky hand of poker.  The two meet on board the ship, and despite the differences in their social standings, they fall in love.  It also shows modern-day treasure hunter Brock Lovett who is looking for the “Heart of the Ocean,” a large diamond and sapphire necklace that had been given to Rose as a gift from Cal.  Despite having looked for the necklace in the wreckage of the Titanic for three years he has never heard Rose’s story until he meets her, now the nearly 101 year old Rose DeWitt Calvert (Gloria Stuart).  Titanic was nominated for fourteen Academy Awards and won eleven, the second film to do so after Ben-Hur. Kate Winslet was nominated for Best Actress in a Lead Role and lost to Helen Hunt (As Good as it Gets) while Gloria Stuart was nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role and lost to Kim Basinger (L.A. Confidential).  Titanic won Academy Awards for Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Visual Effects, Best Costume Design, Best Sound, Best Sound Effects Editing, Best Film Editing, Best Original Song, Best Original Dramatic Score, Best Director (James Cameron), and Best Picture.

Some of the greatest scenes in the film involve dinner in the first class dining room.  When Cal orders dinner for Rose, Molly Brown (Kathy Bates) asks “You gonna cut her meat for her too there, Cal?” and this goes a long way in depicting the relationship Cal and Rose have.  It is also in the first class dining room at dinner that Jack tells a table full of guests including John Jacob Astor IV (Eric Braeden) and Benjamin Guggenheim (Michael Ensign) “Just the other night I was sleeping under a bridge and now here I am on the grandest ship in the world having champagne with you fine people.”

There’s no doubt that dinner on the RMS Titanic in the first class dining room was a grand affair and menus for the final dinner served on the ship indicate that passengers enjoyed an elaborate ten course meal. The final dinner for first class guests on the Titanic included oysters, lamb, roast duckling, filet mignon, and saute of chicken Lyonnaise.  Chicken Lyonnaise is simple to prepare but tastes like a rich meal served at a fancy restaurant, making it ideal for a weeknight dinner.  Staple ingredients like tomato paste, vinegar, and onions come together with a little white wine to make a great sauce.  “Lyonnaise” actually indicates that something is cooked with onions, and onions are really the star of this dish so if you’re not a fan of them, this may not be the dish for you.  Cooking the onions until they’re soft and golden brown does bring out the onion’s sweetness and makes it so that the onions don’t overpower the rest of the dish.  Because boneless skinless chicken breasts in a reasonable size seem impossible to find lately, I used two large chicken breasts and butterflied them for this, and it worked well to make more appropriate portion sizes and help the chicken cook through properly.

chicken lyonnaise

Chicken Lyonnaise


  • 1/3 C. flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. dried thyme
  • 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (either 6 small breasts or 3 large breasts butterflied), patted dry
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1/3 C. white wine
  • 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp. tomato paste
  • 1 C. low sodium chicken broth
  • Pinch of sugar


Heat the oven to 170 degrees or lowest temperature possible.

Combine the flour, salt, pepper and 1/2 Tbsp. of the thyme in a large plastic food storage bag (I used a 1 gallon size Ziplock), seal and shake to combine.

Beat the egg in a medium bowl.

Dip the chicken pieces one at a time into the beaten egg, allow the excess to drip into the bowl and put the chicken into the bag of flour mixture.

Seal the bag and shake to coat the chicken with flour mixture, and place the coated chicken on a plate.

Repeat until all chicken is coated.

Heat 2 Tbsp. of the oil in a large deep skillet over medium-high heat.

Place the chicken pieces into the pan, working in batches if necessary.

Cook for 5 minutes until golden brown, then turn the chicken over and cook for an additional 5 minutes until the other side is golden brown.  Chicken will not be cooked through.

Transfer the chicken to an oven-safe platter and place it in the oven to keep warm.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining 1 Tbsp. of oil to the skillet.

Put the onions, garlic and remaining 1/2 Tbsp. of thyme into the skillet and stir to combine.

Cook, stirring occasionally, for 7 -10 minutes or until the onions are translucent.

Increase the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring often, for 10 more minutes or until onions are a light golden brown.

Stir in the wine and vinegar and cook, stirring, to scrape up any browned bits for 3 minutes, until the liquid has reduced by half.

Stir in the tomato paste then the broth and sugar and bring to a boil for 2 minutes.

Return the chicken to the skillet and turn to coat them with the sauce.

Cover and reduce the heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes, or until the temperature of the thickest part of the chicken pieces reaches 165 degrees.

Transfer the chicken to a serving platter and spoon the sauce over the chicken before serving.

Makes 6 servings.

Source: adapted from The Washington Post, adapted from Abbey Cooks Entertain


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