Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Senegalese Grilled Chicken with Lemon and Onions

Art and I got together this past Saturday to put together a Senegalese Grilled Chicken recipe that was one of dozens cut from the final version of our then too-lengthy appetizer book: The Appetizer Atlas: A World of Small Bites,  Art Meyer and Mick Vann, 2003, Wiley




Senegalese Grilled Chicken with Lemon and Onions            serves 8 as an appetizer
Yassa Poulet de la Casamance                                                                      
Senegal

Senegal is located on the “shoulder” of Western Africa, where it bulges way out into the Atlantic, twixt Mauritania and Guinea-Bissau. This dish is a specialty of the region around Casamance, situated north of the capital of Dakar.

Incredibly simple to prepare and loaded with bright, fresh flavor, the original recipe calls for the chicken to be grilled (done there over a small charcoal-fired hibachi-like grill called a fournière) and then baked. We decided to take what would be the resulting sauce from the bottom of the baking dish and simplify the process by sautéing the ingredients and coarsely puree it into an accompanying relish. It removes a step from the cooking process while it reduces the sauce volume to concentrate and intensify the flavor. The chicken can be skewered with chunks of onion and lemon, or grilled and then sliced. Grilled scallions or sweet onion eighths and thin slices of grilled lemon make a nice additional plate partner.

Marinade:
Juice of 2 large lemons
4 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and coarse ground black pepper to taste
3 bay leaves, toasted lightly and bruised
1 teaspoon dried thyme
8 boneless chicken thighs (or breast meat, about 1½ pounds)
Onion Mixture:
2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
1½ cups thinly sliced white onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons coarse ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ to 1 tablespoon minced hot fresh chile, or a teaspoon of fruity dried hot chile (to taste)
½ cup fresh lemon juice
2 cups rich chicken stock
Parsley sprigs for garnish
White rice or crusty peasant bread for service
Grilled scallions or white onion and grilled lemon slices for service (optional)

Advance Preparation
1. Combine the marinade ingredients, mixing well. Place the chicken pieces in a resealable plastic bag and pour the marinade over the chicken pieces; remove air, seal, and massage to mix well. Marinate in the refrigerator at least 1 hour, up to 4 hours maximum.
Cooking Method
2. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat and sauté the onions, stirring constantly to prevent browning, until soft. Add the garlic and sauté 30 seconds. Add the parsley, salt and pepper, bay leaves, thyme, chile, lemon juice, and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, and reduce until much of the liquid has evaporated. Remove the bay leaves and puree using an immersible blender or a food processor. Reserve and keep warm until service.
3. Charcoal grill the chicken until golden brown and done (internal temperature of 155°F). Allow to rest a few minutes before slicing.
Service
6. Serve one thigh per person, sliced on the diagonal.
7. Spoon some of the chunky relish over the top, garnish with the parsley sprigs and serve immediately with rice or bread.

Chef Notes- This method works well with any type of poultry or with game birds such as squab or pigeon (these are quite commonly used throughout Africa.) It also works quite nicely with thick fish steaks or large shellfish, with appropriately reduced cooking time.

Mick Vann ©

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