I am telling you, this really IS a flexible go-to dish.  This is what won Melissa d’Arabian the top prize on “Next Food Network Star,” and it is so great.  This is the dish you make three or four times a week and your family doesn’t realize it because you change it up each time.  It’s like a Rubik’s Cube you can actually figure out.


Flexible 4-Step Chicken for Family and Company – Rustic Lemon-Onion Chicken

Recipe courtesy Melissa d’Arabian

Show: The Next Food Network Star

Episode: FN Star – Finale

Cook Time     30 min

Level               Easy

Yield               4 to 6 servings

Prep time       30 min

Cook time      30 min

Total time:    1 hr



  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, sliced in half crossways (butterflied, cut all the way through)
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme, plus 1 small bunch fresh thyme, leaves chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup white wine, optional
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 3 lemons, juiced
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons butter
  • Spinach “bed”, recipe follows



  1. Season chicken with dried thyme and salt and pepper. Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat and add the oil. Dredge the chicken in flour, add to the hot oil and sauté until cooked through. Set chicken aside to rest on plate tented with foil.
  2. In same sauté pan, over low heat, add onions and fresh thyme and cook until aromatic.
  3. In a measuring cup, measure out wine, if using, and broth, and add the lemon juice. Turn the heat up to high, and deglaze the pan with the broth mixture until starting to reduce.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and finish the sauce by whisking in butter. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  5. Place a bed of cooked spinach on a serving platter, top with the chicken. Spoon the sauce over the chicken and serve.


Spinach “bed”:

  • 1 bag pre-washed fresh spinach
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Microwave spinach in a microwave-proof dish with a few tablespoons of water on high for 5 to 6 minutes, or until hot. Drain, and toss with butter, lemon juice, and salt and pepper, to taste.


Potato Gratin in muffin tins:

Layer muffin tins with sliced potato, Swiss cheese, chopped green onion, and cream.  Bake in oven at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.



4-Step Chicken Basics:

Video of how-to:  http://www.foodnetwork.com/ten-dollar-dinners-with-melissa-darabian/index.html


Step 1:  Dredge and Sauté 

Choose your meat (chicken, pork tenderloin, fish, beef).

Rub the chicken with salt and pepper and whatever spices and dried herbs you’re using.  Then dredge the rubbed chicken in flour.

Note:  You can use any dried herbs, such as sage, thyme, rosemary, oregano, coriander, nutmeg, saffron, curry, cumin, and basil.

Remove chicken after sautéing and leave drippings in pan.


Step 2:  Cook Aromatics and Vegetables

Aromatics Options:  fresh sage, thyme, rosemary, oregano, basil, parsley, dill, cilantro, bay leaves, capers, chipotle, clove, garlic, and ginger.

Vegetable Options:

–       Yellow onions

–       Red onions

–       Scallions/Green onions

–       Asparagus

–       Tomatoes

–       Root vegetables (potatoes, parsnips, sweet potatoes)

–       Carrots

–       Bell peppers

–       Peas

–       Cabbage

–       Zucchini

–       Squash

–       Broccoli

–       Cauliflower

–       Artichoke

–       Leeks

–       Celery

–       Shallot

–       Yam

–       Turnip


Step 3:  Add Liquids – turn heat to high heat

–       Broth

–       Wine

–       Citrus juice

–       Balsamic vinegar

–       Orange/pineapple juice

–       Water

–       Clamato


Step 4:  Finish the Sauce

Add butter.

Then add the sautéed chicken for a few minutesto absorb the flavors of the sauce.