Yassa is a spicy dish made with onions and marinated chicken or fish. Yassa is a popular West African dish that originated in Senegal. Chicken yassa (also known as yassa au poulet) is a speciality from Senegal’s Casamance region, served with onions, lemon, or mustard. Lamb and fish are two more meats used in yassa.
Senegalese Chicken Yassa
- 3 chicken leg quarters (leg and thigh)
- 3 chicken breast halves (bone-in)
- 5 onions (about 2 pounds) peeled, halved, and thinly sliced
- 1 habanero or scotch bonnet pepper
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 cup canola oil or olive oil
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 4 medium garlic cloves, crushed
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon cooking oil (olive, canola, or grape seed)
- 1 1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth (I recommend Swanson’s)
- Garnish 1 cup pitted green olives, sliced
- Marinate the Chicken: Put the chicken and onions into a large glass bowl.
- Cut a few slits in the habanero pepper and add it to the bowl.
- Whisk marinade ingredients in a small bowl and pour on top.
- Toss to coat
- Cover bowl with plastic wrap and marinate in the fridge for at least 3 hours or, preferably, overnight.
- Brown the Chicken and Caramelize the Onions: Preheat the oven to 176ºC.
- Heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat in a large heavy pot or Dutch oven.
- Remove the chicken from the marinade and sprinkle pieces with a few pinches of salt and a few grinds of pepper, to taste.
- Brown chicken on both sides in batches, three pieces at a time, about 5 minutes per batch.
- Transfer to a plate and set aside. Spoon out some of the chicken fat from the pot, leaving about one tablespoon.
- Caramelize the Onions Set the hot pepper aside and scrape the onions and all the marinade into the pot over medium-high heat.
- Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes to get the onions hot and cooking. Cover the pot and turn the heat to medium-low.
- Let the onions cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes more, until they are soft and starting to caramelize.
- Regulate the heat so they don’t burn.
- Use a spatula or wooden spoon to move onions aside, as you lay chicken pieces into the bottom of the pot, and then mound the onions on top of the chicken pieces.
- Place the hot pepper in the middle of the pot. Pour in chicken broth. Turn the heat to medium high and bring the broth to a simmer.
- Cover the pot and put it in the oven and cook for 1 hour and 20 minutes. Serve with fluffy white rice and sliced green olives.