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Try chicken yassa for a hit of spice. (Tim Fraser for The Globe and Mail)
Try chicken yassa for a hit of spice. (Tim Fraser for The Globe and Mail)

Chicken yassa Add to ...

Yassa is a term for spicy marinated chicken from Senegal. If you want it even hotter, don’t seed the chilies. In Senegal they would serve this with rice and a bean called niebe or cow peas, which have a similarity to black beans. I prefer plain rice.

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  • Preparation time: 25 minutes
  • Ready time: 50 minutes, plus marinating time
  • Servings: Four to six


1/4 cup lemon juice

1 teaspoon grated lemon rind

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon minced Thai red chili peppers, seeded if preferred

3 pounds (1.5 kilograms) chicken legs with thighs, split

salt and freshly ground pepper

1 thinly sliced red onion


3 tablespoons vegetable oil

6 cups sliced red onions (about 3)

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon grated lemon rind

1 teaspoon minced Thai red chilli peppers, seeded if preferred

11/2 cups chicken stock or water

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

11/2 cups diced sweet potatoes, cut in 1/2-inch pieces

1/2 cup pimento-stuffed olives cut into thirds


1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro


Combine lemon juice, lemon rind, vegetable oil and minced chili in a medium bowl.

Add chicken pieces and cover with onions. Cover bowl and leave to marinate, refrigerated for 2 hours or overnight.

Remove chicken from marinade and pat dry. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Discard marinade and onions.

Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to a skillet on medium high. Add onions, season with salt to bring out juices and stir occasionally for 7 to 10 minutes or until onions are soft and browned. Add lemon juice, lemon rind, chili, stock and Dijon mustard. Stir until combined.

Stir in sweet potatoes and olives. Bring to a boil, boil 1 minute and then reduce heat to medium low. Simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Remove cover and continue cooking until vegetables are tender, 5 to 10 minutes. Reserve.

Brush chicken with remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Preheat grill to medium. Grill chicken 8 to 10 minutes per side or until golden and juices run clear.

Serve chicken coated with vegetables and sauce. Garnish with cilantro.

Suggested Wine Pairings

For this chicken dish, I’d suggest a honeyed, floral chenin blanc, preferably from a country on the same continent - South Africa. Subtly sweet yet refreshingly crisp, the Cape’s signature white is as mouthwatering as the dish itself. - Beppi Crosariol

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