Senegal, the westernmost country on the African Continent, boasts a history as varied and colorful as a bustling street market. The nation’s capitol, Dakar, became a hub for European traders in the 15th century, who brought with them the influences of Portugal, France, Great Britain, and the Netherlands. By the mid-1600s, Senegal had been colonized by the French and remained under French rule until it regained independence in 1960. While French is still the official language, walk down any street and you’re likely to hear several ethnic languages, including Portuguese Creole.
Nowhere is this cultural diversity better reflected than in Senegal’s cuisine, a literal melting pot of all things good, whether indigenous or imported. Chef and author, Pierre Thiam, was born and raised in Senegal, but has lived half his life New York, and his recipes, while firmly grounded in his heritage, are sensitive to the cook who may not have access to all the original ingredients. He offers alternatives without altering flavors, and we are transported to an exotic yet familiar place.
Thiam’s recipe for Camaroonian Chicken is an ideal example of several influences coming together to make one perfect dish. From the Dijon mustard and thyme reminiscent of French cuisine, to the eastern influence of ginger and cayenne, all cooked in brown paper and tucked into a crispy baguette with a side of super-powered hot sauce, your palate is in for a delightful surprise. Every recipe has its own story, and you won’t want this one to end.
— Mona Helen
Mona Helen is a freelance writer who has covered everything from motorcycles to Michael Graves, statistics to stilettos, high tech to tamales. When she’s not photographing and writing about food and travel, she’s either experimenting in the kitchen or circumnavigating the globe in search of the next delectable dish. Follow Mona Helen on Instagram @thequirkykitchen.
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This dish was inspired by a similar one that I eat at L’Endroit, a Cameroonian restaurant in Dakar where my dear friend Chef Christian Abegan consulted on the menu. Cooking in kraft paper is a popular technique in West Africa. It reminds me of a way to prepare lamb dibi, in which the meat is wrapped in kraft paper with all the seasonings and slowly cooked in the back of a wood-burning oven. The concept of cooking en papillote is comparable. The result is flavorful, juicy, moist, and tender meat. As always, have some baguettes to mop up the juices, and kani sauce to give it a kick. —Pierre Thiam
Lake Isle Press
- 1 large red or yellow onion, thickly sliced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon peeled, minced fresh ginger
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon peanut oil or other light vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- 1 (3 to 4-pound) free-range chicken, cut into 8 pieces
- 2 tablespoons water
- Baguettes, for serving
- Raw Kani Sauce (recipe follows), for serving
- Combine the onion, garlic, ginger, thyme, mustard, oil, salt, black pepper, cayenne, and vinegar in a large bowl. Add the chicken pieces and combine to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let marinate overnight in the refrigerator.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the center position.
- Line a baking sheet with a piece of kraft paper large enough to enclose the chicken and onions. Spread the onions in a layer in the center of the paper and place the chicken on top. Carefully pour on the marinade and water. Fold the paper tightly around the chicken and onions, enclosing them in a completely sealed package. Place the chicken on the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 1 hour and 30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.
- Serve the chicken and onions directly from the paper or transfer them to a platter and pour the juices over them. Have some baguettes nearby for the juices, and a side of kani sauce, too.
- 5 Scotch bonnet peppers, coarsely chopped
- ½ cup diced yellow onion
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- Place all the ingredients in a blender or a mortar. Blend or pound with a pestle to create a smooth sauce. Store refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.