Image: Yassa au Poulet or Marinated Chicken Braised 
in Lemon and Onion Sauce from West Africa

Yassa au Poulet

Chicken Yassa, or the French-language's Yassa au Poulet, is a famously popular Senegalese dish that is usually accompanied by hot boiled rice. A speciality from the Casamance region of south Dakar, Senegal, this lemon and onion seasoned poultry dish is now quite popular throughout West Africa. 

To serve 4
  • 2 cups finely chopped onions
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh hot chilies
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of salt
  • 1 cup strained fresh lemon juice
  • 1-1/4 cups water
  • 5 tablespoons peanut oil
  • A 2-1/2 to 3-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces

In a shallow glass or enameled baking dish large enough to hold the chicken comfortably, combine the onions, garlic, chilies, ginger, white pepper and salt. Pour in the lemon juice, 1 cup of the water and 1 tablespoon of the oil, and mix well. Add the chicken and turn it about in the marinade until the pieces are evenly coated. Marinate at room temperature for 2 or 3 hours, or in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, turning the pieces of chicken over from time to time. 

Heat the remaining 4 tablespoons of oil in a heavy 10- to 12-inch skillet until a light haze forms above it. Remove the chicken from the marinade and pat the pieces dry with paper towels. (Set the marinade aside). Brown the chicken in the hot oil a few pieces at a time, starting them skin side down and turning them frequently with tongs. As they brown, transfer the chicken pieces to a plate. 

Pour off all but about 2 tablespoons of oil from the skillet and remove it from the heat. Strain the marinade through a fine sieve set over a bowl, pressing the vegetables gently with the back of a spoon to remove any excess liquid. Heat the oil remaining in the skillet and add the solid contents of the sieve. Stirring and scraping in any brown particles that cling to the bottom or sides of the pan, cook for about 5 minutes, or until the onions are soft and lightly colored. Watch carefully for any sign of burning and regulate the heat accordingly.

Return the chicken and any liquid that has accumulated around it to the skillet, add 1/2 cup of the strained marinade and the remaining 1/4 cup of water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low, partially cover the pan, and simmer for about 25 minutes, or until the chicken is tender and the dark meat shows no resistance when pierced with the point of a sharp knife. 

Serve at once from a heated bowl or platter.