The HTC Chef

Hotel Voice, Winter 2022

Chicken Yassa By Michael Greeley, Union Chef, Crowne Plaza Times Square

I first had Chicken Yassa with a group of my former coworkers at a restaurant in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. First created in Senegal, this fusion dish combining French Dijon, North American Chili, and Mediterranean bay leaves in a West African braise, is now served throughout West Africa.

The main flavors of Chicken Yassa are cooked down onions, acid from lemon, lime, or vinegar, and Dijon mustard. The Burkinabe version uses very little chili or none at all even! Whereas, the Senegalese version will definitely use the habanero and serve additional hot sauce as a condiment on the side.


  • 1.5 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons lemon pepper seasoning
  • 3 teaspoons table salt (divided: 2.5 teaspoon for marinade, 1/2 teaspoon for braising)
  • 4 lbs chicken, bone-in, skin-on
  • 1.5 lbs onion, yellow, sliced (divided: 2 onions for marinade, additional 2 to added to braise)
  • 4-6 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice (about the juice of half a lemon)
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 1 lb carrots, peeled, sliced
  • 1 habanero/scotch bonnet chile, pierced (or substitute 1/2 teaspoon of either dried Korean Gochugaru or Aleppo pepper flakes plus add a 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne)
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 4 teaspoons soy sauce
  • Zest from about a quarter of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
  • 1.5 cup chicken stock


  1. Mix sugar, lemon pepper seasoning, and 2.5 teaspoons of table salt in a large bowl
  2. Thoroughly season chicken pieces on all sides with salt mixture in the large bowl
  3. Slice 2 medium onions (about 12 ounces) and cut garlic cloves into large pieces
  4. Add sliced onions, garlic, and 1 tablespoon lemon juice into bowl with chicken and mix well.
  5. Cover bowl and place in the refrigerator for 10-36 hours (overnight is good)
  6. Pick out chicken pieces and pat dry on paper towels. Pick off any onion or garlic pieces from the chicken.
  7. Drain onion and garlic from any liquid in the marinade bowl. Save liquid.
  8. Heat oil on medium high in a large pan or heavy bottom pot
  9. Sear chicken pieces in batches to not overcrowd the pan and until well browned on all sides (normally at least 5 minutes per side)
  10. Set aside browned pieces on a plate while searing the rest and slice the 2 remaining onions
  11. After all the chicken are browned and set aside, add the marinaded onions & garlic, along with the freshly sliced onions to the pan.
  12. Caramelize the onions until your desired darkness
  13. After the onions reach the color you want, add the carrots, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, bay leaves, and chile pepper. Sauté for another 5-10 minutes
  14. Then add dijon, soy sauce, marinade liquid, remaining lemon juice, lemon zest, and chicken stock to the pan. Bring to a boil. Taste for seasoning. Lemon & Dijon will mellow after braise.
  15. If cooking on the stovetop: Push the chicken pieces under the onions, along with any juices on the plate, partially cover pot, and reduce heat to simmer on low. Stir the pot every 10-15 minutes.
  16. If cooking in the oven: Place chicken pieces in a oven-safe dish, pour onion sauce over the chicken, cover with foil, cut a few small holes in the foil top, and put into a 350 degree oven. Cook for 40 minutes.
  17. Serve with extra lemon wedge, any vegetable, and a starch: rice, couscous, fonio, potato, or fufu.

Recipe notes:

  • Green olives can also be added right before the final cooking step. Just reduce the salt by 1/2 teaspoon.