Sunday, February 21, 2010

Yassa Poulet


Aka, the most sublime Senegalese dish ever. When I spent a summer in West Africa several years ago this was the thing that I ate the most, and the one that I’ve dreamt of eating the most in the 8 or so years since that summer.

The ingredients are fabulously simple, but the result is unexpectedly different from anything you’ve ever eaten. If you like onions, and you like vinegary sauces, this one is for you.

1/2 C peanut oil (peanut oil is pretty essential for true African flavor)

one 3-4 lb chicken, cut into pieces, or the equivalent weight of chicken legs or breasts (skin on or off, your choice)

6 onions, sliced (yes, SIX. Or more if you really love onions)

8-10 Tbs lemon juice (about 2 1/2 large lemons)

8 Tbs cider vinegar

2 bay leaves

2-4 cloves minced garlic

2 Tbs Arome Maggi® sauce or Maggi® cubes and water (this is a brand of seasoning widely used in West Africa; it is available at most grocery stores in the States, however a decent substitute would be soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce mixed together)

1 scotch bonnet chile pepper, cleaned and finely chopped (optional, I did not put this in)

2 Tbs fresh ground pepper

a small cabbage, cut into chunks (optional)

a few carrots, cut into chunks (optional)

Mix oil, lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, bay leaves, pepper and ground pepper in a large bowl or dish. Add the chicken pieces and stir to combine. Cover and let marinate in the fridge for 8 hours or overnight, stirring occasionally.


About 30-40 minutes before you’re ready to start eating, turn on the broiler and start a pot of rice on the stovetop. For maximum authenticity you should use white rice, but I only had brown this time around. Put the chicken on the broiler pan and the onions and marinade in a large pot over medium heat with the reserved vegetables (I was so excited about my Yassa that I totally forgot to add the veg this time, what a pity). Broil the chicken for about 6-8 minutes per side, while the onion mixture simmers. Remove the chicken from the oven and add it to the onion and marinade, and let simmer for 15-20 more minutes until the chicken is cooked, the onions are caramelized and the marinade is reduced to a syrupy sauce. Serve over rice.

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