I came home from the road last night all ready to flex my kitchen muscles only to find my poor wife aching and hacking with a cold. I wanted to cook. She wanted "comfort food." I managed to satisfy us both with a simple riff on a Marcella Hazan favorite -- chicken fricaseed with onions, Northern Italian-style.

The following is significantly altered from Marcella's original, made simpler and a bit lighter, but I think the spirit remains. The sauce made a truly consoling combo with a mound of steaming mashed potatoes, which is what Mary really wanted ...

Slice two large onions very thin. Slice two or three fat cloves of garlic paper-thin. In a large cast-iron skillet (I used a deep one technically known as a "chicken fryer"), sautee the garlic in a tablespoon of olive oil with a light shake of red-pepper flakes until the garlic is translucent but not yet brown; add the sliced onions, turn several times and continue sauteeing until they're starting to soften. Add about 1/2 cup water, stir, cover, reduce heat and cook the onions and garlic over a low fire for 15 or 20 minutes until they're very wilted and soft. Remove the lid, raise the heat, and continue cooking the onions until the water evaporates and they turn a good rich brown. Add a little water judiciously if needed to keep the onions from sticking.

Remove the onions to a bowl, put the skillet back on the fire. Rinse six to eight chicken thighs briefly, and place them in the hot skillet, skin side down. Sautee them briefly until they turn pale tan. You won't need any additional fat; the water from the rinse will keep them from sticking until they start rendering their fat ... and thighs have plenty of that. When they're sufficiently browned, pour off excess fat; put the cooked onions back in the pan and turn the thighs over in the onions a couple of times. Add two tablespoons Sherry and 1/2 cup water. Salt and pepper to taste; cover, and cook over low heat for about 40 minutes or until the thighs are fully cooked. Watch the liquid; you want a thick, not soupy sauce, and you may need to either add a little more water during cooking if it gets too thick, or remove the lid and raise heat toward the end to reduce it a little if it gets too thin.