Chicken yassa is a popular West African dish in which chicken pieces and minced onions are marinated in lemon juice and mustard before being cooked into richly flavored stew. Traditionally the chicken is grilled over a barbecue or wood fire. But as that is rather impractical for everyday chefs, the chicken in this recipe is grilled on the stove top.
Yassa takes a little forward planning, as the chicken needs to marinate for several hours or, better, overnight.
For best results, use a whole free-range or organic chicken, preferably chopped by your butcher into 8-10 pieces. Alternatively, you can use 4 chicken legs and cut each into 3 pieces — the drumstick and the thigh sliced in half in the direction of the bone.
The recipe calls for Dijon mustard, which is widely used in former French West Africa. Get the best quality you can find, preferably with no sugar added.
This dish may be prepared ahead of time and reheated gently just before serving.
1 chicken, chopped into 8-10 pieces
4 large onions or 6 medium onions
3 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 small dried cayenne pepper (optional)
1/2 tsp. salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp. cooking oil
1/2 cup (10 cl) water
Place the chicken pieces in a large bowl, preferably ceramic or glass.
Peel and finely mince the onions. Add to the bowl and stir to mix the onions with the chicken.
Squeeze the lemons through a sieve into a small bowl. Add 2 tbsp. mustard to the juice and stir. Pour this sauce over the chicken and stir.
Cover the bowl and allow the chicken to marinate in the fridge for at least 4 hours or, if possible, overnight. Stir a couple of times.
When ready to cook the dish, move the chicken pieces one by one into a shallow dish, knocking or scraping off the onions.
Heat 1 tbsp. oil to sizzling in a large skillet. Place the chicken pieces in the skillet skin side down. Cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Turn over and brown for 5 minutes more.
While the chicken is browning, remove the onions from the marinade into your shallow dish, leaving the marinade in the bottom of the large bowl.
Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil to sizzling in a heavy-bottomed pot. Add the onions and sauté until wilted.
Add the browned chicken pieces and their juice to the onions. Stir. Pour in the marinade and stir again. Add the water and the remaining tablespoon of mustard. Season with salt and pepper.
Simmer for 30 minutes, or until the chicken is tender and the sauce unctuous. Taste and adjust the seasonings as necessary.
Serve with rice, with a salad or veggies on the side. Serves 4-6.