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Chicken Yassa by Jessica B. Harris

Chicken Yassa by Jessica B. Harris

Jessica B. Harris is a culinary historian, professor emerita at Queens College, City University of New York, journalist, conceptualising consultant for Sweet Home Café at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, founding member of the Southern Foodways Alliance, speaker, consultant, and editor, author, or translator of eighteen books.

This is her good-luck chicken yassa recipe, excerpted from the cookbook Why We Cook by Lindsay Gardner

Jessica B Harris



30 April, 2021
Average: 4.2 (11 votes)

serves for



Lemon juice
1/4 cup (Freshly Squeezed)
4 large, cut into very thin slices
Ground pepper
⅛ teaspoon minced fresh habanero or other hot chile pepper, plus 1 whole habanero chile pepper, pricked with the tines of a fork
Peanut Oil
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon peanut oi
One whole chicken (about 3½ pounds), gizzard discarded, cut into serving pieces
½ cup pimiento-stuffed olives
4 carrots, trimmed and cut crosswise into thin slices
Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon
Basmati rice
White rice, for serving

"Chicken yassa (poulet yassa or yassa ganar in French and Wolof, one of the languages of Senegal) was a linchpin dish for me. I first tasted it in 1972 on my first trip to the African continent, and it was indeed love at first bite. I learned how to cook it from friends and recipes, substituting the broiler for the feu malgache (wood-fired grill), over which it traditionally gets an infusion of wood smoke. I consider it my good-luck recipe and have included a version of it in almost all my cookbooks."

Excerpted from Why We Cook: Women on Food, Identity, and Connection by Lindsay Gardner. Copyright © 2021 by Lindsay Gardner. Art by Lindsay Gardner. Recipe © 2021 by Jessica B. Harris. Used by permission of Workman Publishing Co., Inc., New York. All rights reserved.

Why We Cook_Book Cover

Step 01

Combine the lemon juice, onions, salt, pepper, minced habanero, and ¼ cup of the peanut oil in a gallon-size, resealable plastic bag. Add the chicken pieces and seal the bag; massage to coat evenly. Marinate the chicken in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Step 02

Position the top oven rack 4 to 6 inches from the broiler element; preheat the broiler. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Transfer the chicken pieces from the marinade to the baking sheet, skin side up. (Reserve the onions and the marinade.) Broil the chicken for 8 to 10 minutes, then turn the pieces over and broil for another 8 minutes, until the chicken is browned on both sides (it will not be cooked through).

Step 03

Meanwhile, heat the remaining tablespoon of peanut oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the reserved onions, shaking off as much of the marinade as possible, and cook for about 20 minutes, until they are translucent and tender. Add the remaining marinade and stir well; increase the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid comes to a low boil.

Step 04

Add the broiled chicken pieces, pricked habanero, olives, carrots, mustard, and ½ cup water, stirring to mix well. Once the liquid returns to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 20 minutes, or until the chicken has cooked through. Taste occasionally, and remove the whole habanero when the desired spice level has been reached. Serve hot over white rice.

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