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KotW: Chicken Yassa. July 28, 2008

Posted by sarawr in African food, exotic!, herbs & spices, Kip of the Week, poultry.

This week’s post by Kip is, uh… actually last week’s post by Kip, because I was insanely busy last week. It’s worth the wait, though, I promise — this is, hands-down, the best chicken I’ve ever tasted. I promise you guys will love it.

This is from the Casamance in Senegal, is about the best barbecued chicken ever, and is a beautiful introduction to African food. If you serve this to guests, it’ll knock their socks off.

Two pointers right up front. First, once this is all together, you need to let it marinate refrigerated overnight, so this is a start-the-day-before recipe. In Africa, long marinating copes with the fact that free-range chicken can be tough! In the United States it answers just the opposite — battery-raised chicken doesn’t taste like much. Second, this really, really is best if you’re able to grill it; the other cooking methods work, but that little bit of char and crunch puts this dish over the top.

six tablespoons peanut, corn or canola oil
one chicken cut into serving pieces (yes, you can use boneless breasts and thighs, but this is a lot better with bones and skin)
four to eight onions, roughly chopped
half a cup mixed citrus juice — lemon, lime, orange, tangerine, grapefruit; fresh-squeezed if feasible
half a cup cider vinegar or rice vinegar
two bay leaves
four to eight cloves garlic, minced
one-third cup Dijon mustard
one or two tablespoons soy sauce (to taste)
one serrano pepper, or other fresh medium-hot pepper, cleaned and finely chopped (not jalapeno which loses flavor when cooked)
flaked red pepper (to taste)
black pepper (to taste)
salt (to taste — it may not need any)
one small green cabbage, cut into chunks
four to six carrots, peeled and cut into chunks

The amounts of onion, fruit juice, garlic and hot pepper given here look excessive. No way. More the better.

Combine everything except the cabbage and carrots in a glass or stainless bowl or enamel casserole and refrigerate overnight. Remove chicken from the marinade and reserve the marinade. Cook the chicken until it’s ALMOST, not quite, done:

    over a charcoal fire or
    on a gas grill or
    in a hot oven or
    in hot oil in a skillet, just about in order of preference.

Try for nice browning in any case.

While the chicken is cooking, scoop the onions out of the marinade and sauté them for a few minutes, in a pan big enough for the finished dish. Add the cabbage and carrots and remaining marinade and bring to a slow boil. Add the chicken pieces, cover and simmer until the chicken and the carrots are done.

Serve with white or brown rice or, better yet, couscous.

(c) July 2008 /KC



1. mildlyscruffy - July 28, 2008

ever vigilant on behalf of our discerning and devoted community, I re-scouted for this and discovered that chopped olives are sometimes cited as an optional ingredient. I’m a great fan of olives, especially firm green ones, in chicken dishes, and I really think this tweak would be worth trying.

2. Edie - November 11, 2008

You write very well.

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