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Festive chicken stew for Kwanzaa celebration Holiday: Cookbook author Jessica B. Harris recommends tasty Senegalese dish as part of cultural observance.


Kwanzaa is a feast for the senses.

Red, green and black candles are lighted during the seven-day holiday that began Saturday. Motivational stories draw in listeners. And principles such as unity, self-determination and faith inspire discussion.

But food also plays a major role in the holiday that started in 1966 to encourage cultural identity among African-Americans. After all, Kwanzaa means first fruits of the harvest in Swahili.

Tomorrow, a lavish celebration called the Kwanzaa Karamu will be shared in many homes around the country. Tables will be laden with cuisines from the Caribbean, South America and Africa - anywhere that Africans lived.

In time for this year's event, Jessica B. Harris has written "The Africa Cookbook: Tastes of a Continent" (Simon & Schuster, 1998). The cookbook author and traveler takes readers on a culinary journey through the continent, complete with a glossary of foods, more than 200 recipes and a brief history of the land.

For Kwanzaa, she especially recommends a chicken stew from Senegal, which she says is festive and tasty.

Yassa au Poulet II

Serves 6

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

4 large onions, thinly sliced

salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/8 teaspoon minced fresh habanero chili pepper, or to taste

5 tablespoons peanut oil

1 frying chicken (2 1/2 to 3 1/2 pounds), cut into serving pieces

1 habanero chili, pricked with a fork

1/2 cup pimento-stuffed olives

4 carrots, scraped and thinly sliced

1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard

1/2 cup water

cooked white rice

In a large nonreactive bowl, prepare a marinade by mixing the lemon juice, onions, salt, pepper, minced chili and 4 tablespoons of the peanut oil in a large bowl. Place the chicken pieces in the marinade, making sure that they are all well covered. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the chicken to marinate for at least 3 hours in the refrigerator.

Preheat the broiler. Remove the chicken pieces, reserving the marinade and onions, and place the chicken in a shallow pan. Broil the chicken until it is lightly browned on both sides. Remove the onions from the marinade. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a flameproof 5-quart casserole or Dutch oven and cook the onions slowly until tender and translucent. Add the reserved marinade. When the liquid is thoroughly heated, add the chicken pieces, pricked chili, olives, carrots, mustard and water.

When the dish is heated through, remove the chili and reserve (it can be served separately). Stir to mix well, then bring the yassa slowly to a boil.

Lower the heat and simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes, or lTC until the chicken is cooked through. Serve hot over white rice.

Pub Date: 12/30/98

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