Cultural Cooking: Thiebou Djenne from Senegal
Dakar, Senegal Community Chapter
Thiebou djenne is often called the national dish of Senegal. It is traditionally eaten from a communal platter. The hostess divides the fish and vegetables onto a portion of rice for each person. In Senegal, the cook would most likely use whatever fresh whole fish was available, so any 1-pound (12-inch-long) white-fleshed fish you can find will do. If you like funkier flavors, look for dried fish such as stockfish to add as well. It lends an authentic smokiness to the meal.
Note: Remember to pay attention to the unit of measurement used. Check conversions online or click here for a quick guide to U.S. and metric conversions.
2 1/8 cups chopped onion (from 3 medium)
1 1/4 cups peanut oil
5 large garlic cloves (2 cloves finely chopped and 3 cloves chopped)
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 1/2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth (28 fl oz)
1 1/2 pound fresh cassava (also called yuca)
1/8 pound eggplant
3 medium carrots, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces (1 1/4 cups)
2 medium turnips, cut into 1-inch pieces (2 1/2 cups)
1/8 pound cabbage, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces (4 cups)
8 small fresh or frozen okra (2 oz)
1 (2-oz) piece dried fish such as stockfish (optional), broken into 2 or 3 pieces
4 cups water
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne
1/8 cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
3 (1-pound) whole white-fleshed fish (each about 12 inches long) such as red snapper, cleaned, leaving head and tail intact
2 cups long-grain white rice (1/8 pound)
Special equipment: a large nonreactive roasting pan (16 by 13 by 3 inches; see cooks’ note, below)
1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 450°F.
2. Cook 2 cups onion in 1/4 cup oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 4 to 5 minutes.
3. Add finely chopped garlic (from 2 cloves) and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
4. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until caramelized, about 1 minute.
5. Add broth and bring to a boil, stirring until tomato paste is incorporated, then remove from heat.
6. Trim ends of cassava, then halve crosswise and peel, removing all waxy brown skin and pinkish layer underneath. Quarter each half lengthwise, then cut away and discard thin, woody core. Cut cassava crosswise into 1-inch pieces.
7. Cut eggplant into 1-inch pieces.
8. Put cassava, eggplant, carrots, turnips, cabbage, okra, and dried fish (if using) in roasting pan, then straddle pan over 2 burners and add broth mixture (reserve skillet), water, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 1/4 teaspoons cayenne.
9. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, then transfer to oven and braise, uncovered, stirring twice, until vegetables are just tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
10. While vegetables are braising, pulse together parsley, chopped garlic (from remaining 3 cloves), 1/8 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/8 cup onion, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon cayenne in a food processor until finely chopped.
11. Lay 1 fish on its side with gutted side facing you. Holding a sharp paring knife at a 30-degree angle from fish, cut 3 evenly spaced (2 1/2-inch-long) slits across center of fish’s side to make shallow pockets. (Start at side farthest away from you; be careful not to cut through bone.) Turn fish over and cut 3 slits across center of other side in same manner, then repeat with remaining 2 fish. Pat fish dry, then stuff slits with parsley mixture (some mixture will come out of slits).
12. Clean skillet and wipe dry, then heat remaining cup oil in skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking.
13. Brown fish, 1 at a time (fish will not lie flat in skillet), turning over once carefully using tongs and a metal spatula, until golden, about 2 minutes per fish. Transfer as browned with tongs and spatula to a shallow baking pan.
14. Arrange fish over vegetables and braise in oven, without stirring, until fish is just cooked through, 5 to 10 minutes (test for doneness in thickest part of fish). Transfer fish using tongs and spatula to a platter, then transfer vegetables with slotted spoon to a large bowl and keep warm, covered with foil.
15. Pour cooking liquid from roasting pan into a 1-quart liquid measure and add enough water to total 4 cups liquid.
16. Bring liquid (4 cups), rice, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt to a full rolling boil in a 4-quart heavy pot, then cover and reduce heat to low. Cook, undisturbed, until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, about 20 minutes.
17. Remove from heat and let stand, undisturbed, 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
18. Spoon vegetable mixture into center of a very large platter, then spoon rice around vegetables. Arrange fish on vegetables.
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