Yassa Poulet (sometimes called Chicken Yassa) is a West African dish originally from Senegal, characterized by its spicy marinade of peppers, lemon, and onions. I was initially drawn to this dish because the marinade uses a crazy amount of onions, and they’re not wasted; instead, they are recombined with the chicken during cooking.
Many traditional recipes call for the chicken to be browned in a skillet and then braised with the marinade until tender. That sounds good, but our nice summer weather always compels me to grill, which left me with a conundrum; how do I reincorporate the onions into this dish after grilling? The answer turned out to be simple – caramelize the onions while the chicken is on the grill. Combining the sweet, delicate flavor of the caramelized onions and the bright, crispy grilled chicken was a pretty awesome move.
I’ve also found that this makes a perfect weeknight dinner – throw together the marinade before work (or the night before), then finish the dish in less than an hour when you get home. Since both the chicken and onions are relatively hands-off, it gives you plenty of time to prepare other accompaniments along the way. Sure, it’s a bit more work than something like my Simple Grilled Chicken Drumsticks recipe, but it’s totally worth it in terms of flavor.
Yassa Poulet (Gluten Free, Paleo, Primal, Whole30)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
juice of 2 lemons (1/4 cup)
zest of 1 lemon (1 tbsp)
4 onions, sliced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeño pepper, seeds removed, diced
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
1/4 tsp ground allspice
2-3 lbs bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs and drumsticks
1 lime, cut into wedges
1. Combine all of the marinade ingredients and place them in a resealable plastic bag with the chicken. Marinate in the fridge for at least four hours but up to overnight, shifting the bag contents occasionally.
2. After four hours, remove the chicken pieces from the bag and set aside. Pour out and discard most of the liquid from the bag, and pull out the bay leaves. In a skillet, add the marinade ingredients and sauté over low heat until the onions are caramelized, about 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes or so.
3. While the onions are caramelizing, grill the chicken. Set up your grill for indirect grilling (one side hot, the other side cool). Place the chicken on the hot side of the grill for 5 minutes, then switch it to the cool side of the grill until cooked through, about 30 more minutes. Alternatively, you could bake the chicken in the oven on a baking sheet lined with a wire rack, at 400F for 35-40 minutes, until its juices run clear.
4. Serve the chicken over the caramelized onions and with lime wedges. This dish is often served with plain white rice, but cauliflower rice will definitely do the trick.