When food blogger and recipe creator Jennifer Emilson moved away from home, she’d sometimes call her mom to announce an impromptu visit – and inquire about the evening’s dinner menu. “If she said her chicken and rice, I was just all smiles,” Jennifer says. The simple dish of juicy chicken, rice and vegetables was a homemade meal that always stood out in a household where traditional German cooking was the norm.
It was also an important recipe that contributed to Emilson’s trajectory to acclaimed status in the culinary world, requiring seemingly endless hours of honing to replicate after her mother (a great cook but but a not-great cooking teacher) passed. Some things needed to be changed; no question – her mum didn’t oven-roast the chicken and used a bouillon cube for extra chicken flavour, both aspects of the recipe Jennifer wanted to change. The basic flavours, though, became a mission.
For this comfort food classic, Jennifer decided to look at the recipe in a whole new way. She writes on The Lemon Apron blog: “I decided to take a baking approach to the recipe. It’s not how my mum did it. But I decided that instead of using a bouillon cube, I would use the natural juices from the chicken to permeate the rice as it baked underneath the chicken pieces. Using stock would also help.”
The secret ingredient to her favourite chicken and rice dish, she eventually discovered, was celery. She writes: “For veggies I would use the one that my mama taught me to love: celery. I decided that it’s earthy flavour must be there to round out the rice flavour in my taste bud memories. No carrots, their sweetness would interfere with the flavour profile I was trying to achieve.”
All that tinkering was worth it – after Mama’s Chicken And Rice was uploaded to The Lemon Apron blog in January of 2020, it was a hit. “Anyone who follows me who’s made this recipe loves this recipe,” says Jennifer. With a response like that, it was obvious: “It’s the recipe that I immediately said ‘It’s going in the book’.”
A bit more refining, and voila: the latest most-perfected version of Mum’s Chicken & Rice is ready for release alongside a curated collection of recipes (some new, some blog favourites) in The Lemon Apron Cookbook: Seasonal Recipes for the Curious Home Cook, out November 1.
Mum’s Chicken & Rice
Mum's Chicken and Rice
- 2 tsp sweet paprika
- 2 tsp dried thyme leaves
- salt and pepper
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp butter divided
- 6-8 chicken thighs bone in and skin on
- 1 large yellow onion diced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 3 celery stalks chopped into ½-inch chunks
- 1 cup basmati rice
- 1 ¾ cups chicken stock
- olive oil cooking spray optional
- 2 tbsp parsley finely chopped for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- In a small bowl, combine the paprika, thyme, 1½ teaspoons of salt, 1 teaspoon of pepper, the lemon zest, onion powder, and garlic powder. Set this seasoning mix aside.
- In a large ovenproof skillet or braiser over medium-high heat, heat the oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add the chicken thighs, in batches if necessary, skin side down. Sear on all sides until just golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate to cool slightly. Remove all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the skillet.
- Place the skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until they just start to soften, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and stir for another minute. Add the celery and 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Cook until just softened, about 3 minutes.
- Meanwhile, once the chicken thighs have cooled, pat away any remaining fat and rub the seasoning mix into all sides.
- Add the rice and remaining butter to the skillet and stir to coat. Place the chicken evenly on top of the rice. Pour the stock and ½ cup of water around and between the chicken thighs, but not over top of them. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer. Let it bubble for 30 seconds. Cover with a lid, or seal tightly with foil, and bake in the center of the oven for 35 minutes. Remove the lid or foil. If you want the skins to be crispy, spray the chicken with a little olive oil cooking spray. Bake until the liquid is absorbed and the internal temperature reaches 165°F, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes. If serving from the skillet, gently fluff up the rice around the chicken. Garnish with parsley before serving.