Earlier this week in Club Q – that’s a fun rebrand of “quarantine” you can use — my downstairs neighbor asked to borrow a loaf pan and returned that evening with half a loaf of chocolate babka. Don’t worry, we’ve had a building text chat. We follow best sanitary practices while accepting that we will inevitably touch the same doorknobs, jambs and railings, so we can let our guard down a bit with each other.

“Babka? Wow!”

“Martha posted it on her Instagram, so you know … .”

I do know. I follow Martha Stewart on Instagram, too, and have been scrolling a little more than usual in Club Q. It was actually a recipe a for a “babka-inspired” Chocolate Cinnamon Swirl Bread, and it’s featured in the April issue of Martha Stewart Living.

Like a real millennial, most of the things I cook come from a recipe on the internet. Until I started building my cookbook collection by keeping the press copies we receive for these reviews, I had three – two of them acquired through marriage. My contribution was Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything.” Great title. I have looked in there countless to see how to make a medium-boiled egg. (Gentle boil water first, add egg, then 6 to 7 minutes, but I’ll forget it again.)

When you look for a free, internet recipe, you have two major obstacles. First, the limitless options. I wanted to make chocolate no-bake cookies a few weeks ago, and I wanted a recipe with oats, coconut and peanut butter. It was surprisingly hard to find one with all three, and then when comparing the steps between the top two contenders, I wondered how they could be so different. I still can’t remember which one I ended up using. It involved a candy thermometer. I should probably start writing things down.

Sorry to be a tease, but we are not giving you the recipe for this chocolate babka, at least not today. But Emeril’s braised chicken is mighty delicious, too. A_Lein/shutterstock.com

Next, you often have to scroll through a big, personal story before getting to the recipe. An 800-word memory of a Wyoming ranch ride will end in a four-ingredient chimichurri. The only stories worth reading, in my opinion, are by Deb Perelman, who pioneered the style when she started “Smitten Kitchen” in the blogging heyday of the early 2000s. She’s still at it online and now is a published author as well.

After years of furious Googling, I have learned something basic: Certain cooks become icons because they are tried, true and trusted, and many of their recipes are still free on the internet.

I found this recipe for Emeril’s Braised Chicken Thighs on marthastewart.com, but it was originally published in “Emeril 20-40-60 Fresh Food Fast,” a 2009 collection of recipes by Lagasse, organized by time commitment. This one takes 60-minutes, but with regular intervals of stewing and flipping the thighs, you have time to clean up all your prep work and enjoy dinner with just dinner dishes and the stew pan to clean after.

I love this recipe. I love chicken thighs, I love onions, I love pouring the parsley-strewn gravy over rice. I love flouring and braising the chicken, giving me the essence of a country-fried meal without the deep frying. I love the way paprika and cayenne slow-burn your palate, an almost addictive heat that makes you want bite after bite, like a bag of Spicy Nacho Doritos. And I love that it can be made with pantry basics – I’ve done it without any fresh herbs and it’s fine that way.

Emeril’s Braised Chicken Thighs

If you have a rice cooker, starting the rice at Step 5 will have it done right on time for serving.

Serves 4-6, depending on how hungry you are

6 chicken thighs (about 2 pounds), trimmed of excess skin or fat
1 tablespoon Emeril’s Original essence or Creole seasoning (which at its simplest is garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, cayenne, black pepper and oregano)
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup + 1 tablespoon flour
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups thinly sliced yellow onions
1 tablespoon minced garlic
6 sprigs fresh thyme, tied in a bundle, or 2 sprigs fresh rosemary (or whatever dried or fresh herbs you have on hand and like)
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 cups chicken stock
¼ cup chopped parsley
Steamed rice for serving

Step 1. Season the chicken all over with the Essence and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Place the 1/2 cup flour in a small bowl, and quickly dredge both sides of each thigh in the flour, shaking to remove any excess. Set aside.

Step 2. Heat 1 teaspoon of the olive oil in a 10- to 12-inch flameproof casserole or saute pan over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the butter, and when it has melted, place the chicken, skin side down, in the pan. Brown for 2 minutes on each side. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.

Step 3. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter to the pan, and when it has melted, add the onions, garlic, thyme bundle or rosemary sprigs and saute for a minute or so. Sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of flour over the onions, add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and saute for another minute to be sure the floury taste disappears, then whisk in the chicken stock and increase the heat to high. Return the chicken, skin side down, to the pan, and bring the stock to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pan with a heavy, tight-fitting lid, and simmer for 15 minutes.

Step 4. Uncover the pan, stir the bottom of the pan to prevent scorching and to incorporate the flavorful bits of fond into the gravy, and turn the chicken skin side up. Cover the pan, and simmer for 20 minutes longer.

Step 5. Stir the bottom of the pan a final time, re-cover, and simmer for 20 more minutes.

Step 6. Remove the pan from the heat and discard the herb bundle or rosemary sprigs. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter. Add the parsley to the sauce, stir to combine, and then spoon the sauce over the chicken. Serve with steamed white rice.


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