When it comes to poultry, The Hubs favors the dark meat and I most often prefer the white meat. What’s nice about this Senegalese Braised Chicken with Onions and Lime recipe is you can use a combination of both and make everyone happy. And happy is the name of the game when you’ve been hunkered down together for months (thanks COVID).
Don’t let the name fool you. With just a few ingredients, “Yassa Ginaar” delivers multiple layers of flavor—savory yet sweet with lightly caramelized onions, citrusy with lime zest and juice, meaty from the deeply browned chicken, and slightly spicy from the heat of a habañero chili. This version from Milk Street is based on a recipe in “Yolele!” by Pierre Thiam, who marinates then sears the chicken, then uses the marinade as a base for the flavorful sauce.
Bouillon concentrate adds to the savoriness of the dish. As it is for Milk Street, our preferred brand is Better than Bouillon. We paired our entrée with a side of sautéed spinach in roasted garlic olive oil and jasmine rice steamed in homemade chicken stock. A side of creamy mashed potatoes would work easily as well for the saucy onion bed.
Keep in mind that you don’t want to marinate the chicken for longer than two hours; the acidity of the lime juice will soften the meat and turn it mushy. Likewise, don’t use an uncoated cast-iron pot. The lime’s acidity will react with the metal, causing the sauce to taste metallic—not necessarily a flavor enhancer in our book!
3 Tbsp. grated lime zest, plus 6 tablespoons lime juice
1 habanero chili, seeded and minced
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
2 tsp. chicken bouillon concentrate
2 lbs. bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts, thighs or drumsticks, trimmed
3 medium yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced
Finely chopped fresh chives, to serve
In a small bowl, stir together 3 tablespoons of oil, the lime zest, habanero, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Transfer 2 teaspoons of the mixture to a pinch pot and set aside.
To the remaining oil-zest mixture, whisk in the lime juice, bouillon and ¼ cup water. Place the chicken and onions in a large ziploc bag, add the oil-zest mixture, seal and toss. Let marinate at room temperature for 1 hour or refrigerate up to 2 hours, turning once.
Set a colander over a large bowl and strain the contents of the ziploc. Remove the chicken and pat dry with paper towels. Reserve both the marinade and the onions for later.
In a large Dutch oven over medium-high, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil until barely smoking. Add the chicken, skin side down, and cook until well browned, about 4-5 minutes.
Transfer to a plate and pour off and discard all but 1 tablespoon of the fat. Set the pot over medium heat and stir in the onions and ¼ cup water, scraping up any browned bits.
Cover and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are softened and lightly browned, 15 to 20 minutes.
Stir the reserved marinade into the onions. Return the chicken, skin side up, nestling the pieces into the sauce, and pour in any accumulated juices. Reduce to medium-low, cover and cook until a skewer inserted into the thickest part meets no resistance, about 20-25 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to a serving platter or shallow bowl. If the saucy onions appear too watery, reduce them down, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes at a rolling simmer to thicken. Off heat, stir the reserved oil-zest mixture into the onions, then taste and season with salt and pepper.
Spoon the onions and sauce around the chicken and sprinkle with chives.
With only 5 ingredients plus the poultry pieces, pretty much anyone can tackle this super flavorful grilled chicken. We just oohed and ahhed while savoring every juicy bite. Once you taste it, I’m betting you’ll add it to your regular rotation.
Extra-virgin olive oil, lemon, garlic and herbs comprise salmoriglio, a sauce/marinade from southern Italy (specifically, Calabria and Sicily). This version is made with grated zest; some of the mixture is used for marinating bone-in chicken parts, then the juice from grilled lemon halves is added to finish the sauce just before serving.
Grilling the lemons before juicing them mellows their sharpness and acidity, adding a subtle sweetness to the sauce. We used a mixture of bone-in chicken breasts and thighs (can also include drumsticks or leg quarters). Keep in mind that the white meat is done at 160°F and the dark meat at 175°F, so the breasts may finish ahead of the dark meat. Our white meat actually took longer because one of the pieces was quite thick, so it’s good to have an instant read thermometer on hand.
If using white meat, cut the breasts halves in half again to make the pieces more uniform in size with the dark meat. Don’t use a fork to move the chicken pieces on the grill. A fork creates holes that allow juices to escape, resulting in drier meat. Use tongs instead—oh, and don’t forget protective gloves especially when squeezing those charred lemon juices into the salmoriglio sauce, they are HOT!
As sides, we served ours with a wedge salad and Patates a la Sal(Wrinkly Potatoes). They are cooked in very salty water—like the sea. By the time they are cooked through, the salt water evaporates and the potato skins become wrinkled with a white dusting of salt. They are especially tasty with a roasted garlic aioli.
Grate 2 teaspoon zest from the lemons, then halve the lemons crosswise and set aside.
In a small bowl, stir together the zest, oil, garlic, oregano, 1¼ teaspoons salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Transfer ¼ cup of the mixture to a large bowl, add the chicken and turn to coat. Marinate at room temperature while preparing the grill.
Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for indirect cooking.
Place the chicken skin side up on the cooler side of the grill. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. Using tongs, reposition the chicken so that the pieces furthest from the fire are now closest; keep the chicken skin-side up. Re-cover and continue to cook until the thickest part of the breast, if using, reaches 160°F or the thickest part of the thighs and drumsticks, if using, reach 175°F, another 5 to 10 minutes.
Using tongs, flip the chicken skin-side down onto the hot side of the grill. Cook until the skin is lightly browned and crisp, 1 to 2 minutes, moving the chicken as needed to avoid flare-ups. Transfer the chicken skin side up to a platter and let rest for about 5 minutes.
While the chicken rests, cut each lemon in half and grill the lemon halves cut side down on the hot side of the grate until grill-marked, 2 to 3 minutes.
Squeeze 2½ tablespoons juice from 1 or 2 of the grilled lemon halves, then stir the juice along with the parsley into the reserved garlic-lemon oil to make the salmoriglio.
Transfer the chicken skin side up to a platter and let rest for about 5 minutes.
Serve the sauce and the remaining grilled lemon halves with the chicken.