Life in a Northern Town

Polynesian Chicken Salad & Coconut Titiyas

Like most good things, this meal started with a single step into the unknown (or in this case, towards a random bottle of sugar cane vinegar). I have a thing for condiments of all kinds and my fascination doesn't recognize international boundaries. When I spied the bottle Datu Puti vinegar, I had no idea what it was but figured another reason for culinary exploration was worth $3.29.

It turned out, the Datu Puti is widely used in Filipino and Polynesian cooking and that's were I started my search for the best use of $3.29. Since summer has finally arrived in northern Wisconsin, meat on the grill was the name of the game for Friday's dinner and I knew exactly how to best leverage my investment.

Remember, the Brady Bunch? And remember when they went to Hawaii and Bobby found the voodoo doll and all hell broke loose?  Well, somewhere between Alice learning how to hula dance and the inevitable happy ending with a lesson, there was a luau. Since Ted and the boys were leaving for the BWCA on Saturday morning (a luau worthy expedition), I decided to channel my inner Alice, sans grass skirt, and make a Polynesian chicken salad.

In my search for dinner ideas, I ran across a recipe for a sweet coconut flatbread called titiyas from Guam....quite a name for flatbread, right?? I figured there had a be a good story behind a word like that and went searching for the etmology. The Spaniards set up shop in Mexico and the Philippines in the 1700's (Guam was the only stop on the journey between the two countries) and the now famous Mexican contribution to cuisine, corn tortillas, were introduced to Guam via the trade route. Titiyas (ti-ti-djas) is Guam's version of the Spanish word tortilla, makes sense when you see the phonetic spelling. Over the years, titiyas have evolved to include wheat and nut flours flavored with sugar and coconut milk and I opted for the sweet version for our BWCA send-off party.

Polynesian Chicken Salad

1 1/2 cups soy sauce or tamari
1 1/2 cup cane vinegar
3/4 cup pineapple juice
1/4 cup chili garlic sauce
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 cups green onions, sliced
1 1/2 cups unsweetened, grated coconut
3/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/3 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
2 jalapenos, minced

Preparation
Combine the soy sauce, vinegar, chili garlic sauce, pineapple juice and onions in a bowl. Add the chicken thighs and marinate for at least 8 hour or overnight.

Prepare a medium-hot fire in your grill (charcoal or gas) and cook the chicken, flipping once or twice, for about 10 minutes or until completely cooked. Remove from grill, let cool slightly and then cut up into bite-sized pieces. Place the chicken in a bowl with the green onions, cilantro, jalapenos and coconut. Mix to combine, pour the lemon juice over the top and thoroughly mix again. Serve immediately or refrigerate, covered, for up to a day.

Coconut Titiyas

4 cups white flour
3/4 cup palm sugar (or 1/2 cup white sugar)
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 can of coconut milk
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Preparation
Combine all ingredients, except the coconut milk, in a large bowl and mix to thoroughly combine. Gradually, add the coconut milk until the dough starts to come together but isn't sticky (I used the entire can of coconut milk) and turn onto a floured surface. Knead until the dough is soft and pliable (3 - 5 minutes), cover and let the dough rest for about 30 minutes.

Separate the dough into individual pieces and roll the dough balls out on a floured work surface into a disk about 6 inches in diameter. Place your cast iron saute pan on the stove and heat over medium high heat. Place dough on grill pan and cover with the lid of a pan large enough to encompass the entire piece of dough. Cook until the bottom is browned and the top starts to puff and blister, 1 to 2 minutes. Flip it over and cook until it’s lightly browned, another 1 to 2 minutes. Allow to cool slightly and serve with the chicken salad. These will keep, covered, for a day or so.