August 19, 2022

why it works

  • Marinating the chicken adds flavor to its meat.
  • Citrus juice and chili balance the sweetness of caramelized onions.

Growing up, I attended a Sufi mosque in South Carolina that served a predominantly West African and African American community. One of the benefits of this experience is that I was introduced to yassa and fell in love with it at an early age. Although I’ve eaten it for years, I didn’t know it was called yassa until I got into professional cooking; I thought of it as a more lemony version of the simmered, smothered chicken and onion dishes I knew from back home, like the Lowcountry Chicken Stew. The preparation is quite similar: the yassa starts with a meat, often chicken, marinated with onions and citrus juice, which is then braised in a rich base of onions until the alliums are melted and caramelized. .

I finally learned his name, and that he comes from the Casamance region in southern Senegal. The dish also reflects the region’s history as a former French colony, as it is known as both chicken yassa (in French) and yassa ganaar (in Wolof). Most of its flavor comes from the relatively large amount of caramelized onion, which provides considerable depth of flavor and color. It also gets a nice flavor that helps round out and cut the richness and sweetness of the onions with the addition of lemon and/or lime juice and a little mustard. My recipe is inspired by several versions I’ve cooked over the years, including recipes from chef Pierre Thiam The fonio cookbookcookbooks published by food historian Jessica B. Harris, and others.

Jillian Atkinson

Originally, chicken or other protein was grilled over a wood fire and then braised. To brown chicken at home, I find it easiest to sear it deep in a skillet, even though it doesn’t have the smoky notes of a wood fire.

The Scotch Bonnet chilli is the real kick here, adding heat to every bite which (to me) is just right – it’s not scorching, but just enough to give your lips a little tingle and make you crave it. eat more. Ingredients like olives, peppers and carrots are also frequently added, so feel free to include them in the braise if you like. Yassa is often served with rice to soak up the braising liquid, but it’s also excellent with fonio, a traditional West African cereal, or couscous.