The Sweet Onion Source
Aliza Green's Senegalese Chicken Yassa
with Sweet Onions & Lemon

This famed Senegalese dish is made in many versions, but just about all of them consist of marinated chicken that is either broiled or browned and then simmered with lots of onions and fresh lemon juice. Because of the acid in the lemon, the onions come out crispy and deliciously tangy. Be sure to start the chicken a day ahead of time, so that it has plenty of time to marinate. If you’re in a rush, marinate for at least four hours. In Senegal, the chicken is often served over broken rice, which has a special couscous-like texture all its own. The taste for broken rice started because it was cheaper; it is now preferred, especially broken Jasmine rice from Thailand, also known as Mali Rice. Use natural grain-fed chicken for best results. I recommend Bell & Evans on the East Coast or Whole Foods store brand nationwide.

Serves 4 to 6.

bullet 2 large sweet onions, sliced
bullet 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
bullet 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh hot chiles, or 1 teaspoon chili flakes
bullet 3 bay leaves
bullet 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried thyme), optional
bullet 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
bullet Salt to taste
bullet 1 cup fresh lemon juice
bullet 1 cup water
bullet Peanut oil for marinating and frying
bullet 1 (2 1/2 to 3 1/2) pound cut-up fryer chicken, (or 3 pounds leg quarters)

In a non-aluminum baking dish, combine the onions, garlic, chile, ginger, bay leaves, thyme, pepper and salt. Add the lemon juice, water and 1/4 cup peanut oil. Mix with the chicken and marinate refrigerated overnight.

Remove chicken from marinade and pat dry with paper towels. Strain the marinade, reserving both liquid and solids (onions).

Heat peanut oil in a large heavy skillet (cast-iron or non-stick preferred) and brown the chicken on all sides. Remove the chicken and pour off most of the oil. Add the reserved onions to the pan and cook for about 5 minutes over moderate heat, or until the onions are soft and lightly colored. 

Return the chicken, any juices, and the marinade to the skillet. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer about 25 minutes, or until the chicken is tender, turning chicken halfway through. Serve with hot steamed rice or broken rice, seasoned with 1/2 teaspoon turmeric. Note that the dark meat will take the longest time to cook, so that’s the part to check to see if it’s ready.

© 2006, Oso Sweet Onions