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October 28, 2008

Pierre Thiam Shares a Famous Recipe

Chicken Yassa
Thiam's version of yassa ginaar.
Photo: Yolele!
Recipes from the Heart of Senegal

by John Oseid

Set inside an old warehouse in New York's trendy Chelsea district, the Rush Arts Gallery was an incongruous setting for restaurateur Pierre Thiam's celebration of the publication of his cookbook, Yolele! Recipes from the Heart of Senegal. The party, hosted last week by artist and curator Danny Simmons, attracted more than just food fans--there were culture vultures who dig the gallery's collection of emerging artists, plus music lovers who trek to Thiam's Clinton Hill restaurant, Dakar, for the live shows. A traditional ngoni (lute) player was on hand, and there were endless platters of Senegalese hors d'oeuvres. We're always excited to try delicious new recipes, and Thiam's cookbook is full of them. After the jump, he shares his recipe for Senegal's most famous dish--and our new favorite. 

Grilled Chicken with Lime-Onion Sauce (Yassa Ginaar)
Serves 4 to 6

10 limes
5 tablespoons peanut oil
2 chicken bouillon cubes, crumbled
5 onions, thickly julienned
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 (2.5-pound) chickens, each cut into 8 pieces
1 cup water
1 habanero pepper
4 cups cooked rice

1. Grate the zest of 3 limes and transfer the zest to a large bowl; juice all 10 limes into the bowl. Add 2 tablespoons oil, the bouillon cubes, onions, salt, and pepper. Rub this mixture into the chicken. Cover and let marinate in the refrigerator for 2 hours, or 1 hour on the counter. Strain the chicken, reserving the marinade juice and onions separately.

2. Preheat a broiler, grill pan, or outdoor grill over high heat. Working in batches, grill the chicken pieces, turning once, until nicely browned. Set aside on a platter.

3. While the chicken is grilling, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the reserved onions and cook, covered, until caramelized, adding water, 1/4 cup at a time, and stirring occasionally to avoid scorching, 20 to 30 minutes. Add the grilled chicken and juice from the platter along with the marinade and habanero. Season with salt. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer, covered, until cooked through, about 20 minutes. Transfer the chicken and onion sauce to a platter. Serve with rice.

Further reading:
* In their November 2007 Conde Nast Traveler story "L'Afrique, Mon Amour," writer Amy Wilentz and photographer Brigitte Lacombe were wowed by the foods Thiam recommended to them in Dakar
* Catch of the Day: International noshables

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