The best part of trying new ethnic dishes is the unknown. Most of the time, when we want to recreate a new cuisine, it’s based on a version we’ve had before or at least something close to it. Of course, there are those times when you don’t have the opportunity to do a taste test, and you run on the idea that if all of the ingredients taste good on their own, there’s no reason why they won’t work well together. That’s usually all you need to know when you’re cooking. The rest will fall into place. There can also be a desire to steer away from ethnic dishes that require what seem like one-time use ingredients. (There’s still a full bottle of pomegranate molasses in the fridge from a late summer recipe, but it will be used again very soon! Just you wait and see.) We like to either choose dishes with ingredients we can use again or with ingredients we already have. It makes the venture much easier.
The time had come again for another dinner party with old coworkers, and the theme was food of East or West Africa. The continent is a very large one, and food varies from coast to coast and tip to tip. To that end, the options were plentiful, and there was room to bend the rules and adapt traditional recipes to our own tastes. The main dish chosen is one of the most popular Senegalese meals–poulet yassa–and it fit all of our criteria for an easy ethnic dish to reproduce.
It helps to have no fear in the kitchen because you consistently add great recipes to you repertoire. No wonder poulet yassa is so popular! It’s warm, filling and comforting with a touch of spice and tang. It may seem as though the dish may need a little something sweet in the marinade–perhaps a pinch of brown sugar or a dab of honey–but it needs neither. Although carrots are not used in traditional recipes, they are in ours for natural sweetness and color. This recipe also has less than half the usual number of onions. The allspice and ground peanuts were thrown in just for fun. Peanut oil is the main oil used in Senegal, but as we didn’t have it on hand, vegetable oil would have to do. The peanuts add a hint of nutty flavor and also another layer of texture. On the side, there was an easy couscous tossed lightly in a bit of the juice from our Poulet Yassa, and of course, there was a very convenient flatbread to accompany the meal. We’re checking off our list of ethnic fare. What should we try next?
Poulet Yassa – Serves 6 to 8
4 skinless chicken thighs, bone-in
4 skinless chicken legs
2 large yellow onions, sliced
2 cups baby carrots
4 cloves garlic, minced
Zest and juice of 2 lemons
2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 cup raw peanuts, ground
2 serrano peppers, finely diced
1 tablespoon ground allspice
2 bay leaves
Fresh parsley, chopped (optional)
1. Season the chicken with allspice, kosher salt and black pepper. Set in a large bowl or flat dish and cover with mustard, carrots, onions, garlic, lemon juice, zest and serrano pepper. Mix well with your hands to be sure everything is coated. Cover and chill at least 2 hours up to overnight.
2. Remove the chicken from the dish and lay on a flat surface. Sprinkle both sides of the chicken lightly with flour. Drizzle a bit of vegetable oil in a wide, deep pan over medium high heat. When oil is hot, add the chicken pieces to the pan and sear on both sides, approximately 1-2 minutes per side.
3. Once both sides of the chicken have been seared, remove each piece and set on a paper towel or plate. Add the remaining ingredients from the marinating bowl and allow to cook for about 5 minutes, deglazing the bottom of the pan with the marinating liquid. Add the chicken back to the pan.
4. Pour in the chicken broth and half of the peanuts. Reduce heat to low and stir to combine. Cover and cook another 10-12 minutes, then add the last of the peanuts. Continue cooking on a low simmer until chicken is tender and has finished cooking, approximately 10-12 minutes. Sprinkle with fresh parsley before serving. Salt to taste if desired.
Raisin and Almond Couscous – Serves 6 to 8
1 1/2 cups plain couscous
1/3 cup raisins, chopped
1/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted
Zest of 1 orange
1/8 cup Poulet Yassa juice
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
Cook couscous according to package directions. Toss with raisins, almonds, orange zest, parsley and stew juice just before serving.
Parsley Flatbread (tweaked from About.com)- Serves 6
3 cups flour, plus extra for rolling
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
4 tablespoons shortening, butter flavor
1 cup ice water
1. Mix flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, baking powder and parsley together in a medium sized bowl. Cut in shortening using a pastry blender or your fingers until small crumbles form.
2. Pour in half of the water and mix lightly until incorporated into the dough. Add the remaining water and mix until combined.
3. Pull off about 1/4 cup of dough in your hands and place it on a lightly floured surface. Roll flat to about 1/8″ thick, no more than 1/4″ if possible. Repeat with dough in small batches.
4. Pour a little grapeseed oil into a large pan or griddle and, when hot, carefully lay a piece of flattened dough into the pan. Cook on one side until edges begin to bubble, then flip and cook the other side. (Time of cooking may vary depending on the thickness of your dough. Carefully lift an edge of the dough as it cooks. If it has turned a golden brown, it’s ready to flip.) Keep cooked flatbread warm in a very low oven.
Click HERE for the printable recipe.