West African Spicy Grilled Chicken
Poulet braisé (grilled chicken) is one of the iconic foods of my husband’s home country, Côte d’Ivoire. The recipe is deceptively simple. However, the result is intensely aromatic and flavourful.
Grilled chicken is every bit as popular in Côte d’Ivoire as it is where I grew up, in the southern United States. Every bistro, roadside stall, and family has its own secret ingredients for succulent, juicy grilled chicken.
Despite the numerous differences in seasoning, attiéké (fermented cassava couscous) and a salad of thinly sliced tomatoes and onion are standard accompaniments. In Côte d;Ivoire, grilled chicken is also often served with a thick, flavourful tomato sauce called soutrou.
About this Recipe
Needless to say, I’ve sampled a number of different versions of this recipe over the years. However, our family recipe is still my favorite — bar none. It’s also super easy to prepare.
Please don’t be alarmed at the amount of garlic in the recipe. I know it sounds like a lot. However, the acidity of the mustard reduces the garlic’s pungency, and it cooks on the grill. So, the end result is flavoured with garlic, not overwhelmed by it.
This recipe calls for habañeros (or Scotch bonnet) peppers, which are the chili of choice throughout West Africa. In Côte d’Ivoire, the colour of the chili is usually a good indication of its heat — with green chilis being the mildest and red being the hottest. Elsewhere, the mild green habañeros are often unavailable and the heat level of the chilis that are available varies widely — from mild during cool seasons to fiery in the summer.
If you are inexperienced with chilis, take it easy. One chili (as opposed to the four I call for) will probably suffice. However, if you are a chili fanatic, or your chilis are mild, you may want to use many more. Play with the quantity until you arrive at a number that is right for you. However, don’t eliminate the habañero chili altogether, as its flavour is unique. Leaving the chili out will change the flavour of the recipe dramatically.
A Note on Grilling
For grilled chicken, I find it’s best to set up your grill for 2-zone cooking. Start the chicken over the drip tray in the cool zone and cook with the grill cover on.
If you use a Weber kettle grill, keep the vent holes on the lid open and positioned over the chicken. This will draw the smoke over the cooking chicken. You can regulate heat, if necessary, using the bottom vent.
Once the chicken is cooked through (30-45 minutes), you can shift it to the hot side of the grill to sear it for about 5 minutes per side over the open flame. This will crisp up the skin and add flavour, while avoiding unpleasant flare-ups.
I hope your family enjoys this succulent grilled chicken as much as mine does and wish you all a magical 2018! Bon appétit!