Yassa: the delicious Senegalese stew without any exotic ingredients


African cuisine, and more particularly Senegalese, is not very popular in Spain. Here we have great chicken stews, like chicken chilindrón or beer chicken, and in Senegal they have yassa, which could easily become a recurring dish in any Spanish home. It’s not hard to imagine its flavor: a sauce that is basically a thick, reduced onion soup – a trace of Senegal being a French colony until 1960 -, which covers a tender and juicy chicken marinated in lemon juice. The citrus fruits give the dish a subtle touch that refreshes the powerful flavor of the sauce.

The marinade can be omitted if you’re short on time, but it’s highly recommended. It contains two main ingredients: the first, the onion, which contains enzymes that denature the proteins of the meat and make it tender and juicy, because when cooked, its fibers contract less and expel less juice. The second, lemon juice, which increases the pH of the meat -its acidity-, which also results in a more tender meat, and incidentally gives it a delicious touch of citrus.

The caramelized onion is the protagonist of the sauce: its production is a long process but every second spent is worth it. However, this can be sped up: when you first add the onions to the pan, don’t be afraid to turn up the heat as they still contain a lot of water and are harder to burn. As they caramelize, lower the heat. If they threaten to seize or the bottom gets too dark, add a little water, hydrate them a bit, and continue the process.

Like all stews, and like all dishes with caramelized onions, yassa improves with rest in the fridge, so it’s a perfect candidate for tupperware or to leave it prepared the day before. Oh, and it’s almost essential to serve it alongside something to mix with the sauce, be it the more traditional white rice or couscous, or a piece of bread to make montaditos.

Difficulty

Be patient enough to caramelize the onion.

Ingredients

For 2 people (you can double or triple the ingredients without problem)

For the marinade

  • 4 chicken thighs (about 550 g)
  • 60 ml lemon juice (1 large lemon)
  • Half an onion
  • Juice of half a lime (optional, can be replaced with more lemon juice)
  • 2 teaspoons sunflower oil
  • 1 fresh habanero pepper (optional, other peppers can be substituted)
  • A generous pinch of salt
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste

In addition

  • Sunflower oil
  • 2 and 1/2 (the half that remains in the marinade)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 500ml chicken stock (it doesn’t have to be homemade, but if it is, the better)
  • The juice of half a lemon
  • 1 fresh habanero pepper (optional, substitute with other peppers or chilli)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • Cooked white rice, bread or couscous to accompany
  • Lemon or lime wedges for serving (optional)

preparation

  1. Peel and chop the half onion and habanero and add them to a bowl or zip-top bag along with the chicken thighs, lemon juice, sunflower oil, pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Put the chicken in the refrigerator for a minimum of 4 hours, but ideally overnight for maximum flavor and tenderness.

  2. Remove the chicken from the marinade and clean the bits of marinade stuck to it, then pat the thighs dry with paper towel.

  3. In a large pot or skillet, add enough sunflower oil to cover the bottom and heat over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and sear on all sides until nicely browned, about seven to eight minutes total.

  4. While browning, peel and chop the onion julienne and the fine garlic brunoise. Remove the chicken when cooked, add a little sunflower oil if the pan is dry and add the onions with a pinch of salt. Sauté the onions for about 15-20 minutes, until caramelized, stirring frequently and adding a little water if they start to sear.

  5. Add the garlic and Dijon mustard, mix and sauté for 30 seconds, until aromatic.

  6. Add chicken broth, lemon juice, bay leaves, habanero and chicken with any juices that have been released. Bring to a boil over high heat, and when it boils, reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 30-45 minutes, until the chicken is falling off the bone and tender, and the sauce has reduced and is thick. Serve with white rice and lemon or lime wedges.

If you make this recipe, share the result on your social networks with the hashtag #RecipesComidista. And if you have a problem, file a complaint with the Cook Ombudsman by emailing [email protected]

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