Tuesday, May 11, 2010

An Easy Taco Salad -

Last month I ended up with TWO potlucks to go to on the same day - one, my spinner guild lunch and the second, a potluck with my church choir.

I had been hungry for a good taco salad for a while, so I decided that was what I would take.

The taco salad cravings go way back - in 1975 I started singing and playing my 12 string guitar before the show and during intermission at a little local movie theater. That led to an invitation to come sing Sunday nights during the dinner hour at the Mexican restaurant around the corner from the theater.

A job I loved and kept for 21 years. YES, you read it right, 21 YEARS!!! And no, I didn't sing Mexican songs - at the beginning, they were contemporary and folk songs - towards the end, they were all considered oldies - (you see, I was still singing the same songs for the most part...) But I got a few bucks and dinner, and by the end of my tenure there, I had a huge following - in fact, even now, once in a while, someone will ask me "What ever happened to that "girl" who played Sunday nights at "Dos" ---

Anyhow, that's how I got my love of Taco Salad. Bill, the owner, made his a little differently than most - with an oil and vinegar dressing on the lettuce and ground chips under the cheese - He passed away in 1995, but it's still the best taco salad I've ever had. And, thanks to my friend Greg Atkinson (author of West Coast Cooking) I have the recipe for the dressing. I have changed it a little, because I didn't want to fuss around with coddling an egg - a couple of tablespoons of mayo essentially does the same thing - provides an emulsifier to keep the dressing from separating - it also extends the life of the dressing if you have some left over - it's OK to keep in the fridge for a week or so.

( - ala "West Coast Cooking" and Tina's kitchen)
(serves 2 or 4 depending on if you want a dinner salad or a side salad)

1 small head of iceberg lettuce, finely shredded NOT chopped (or buy Fresh Express Shredded Lettuce for tacos)

1 cup crushed tortilla chips (plain, not flavored - either use your food processor or take a rolling pin to medium sized sack - save the left overs - you'll want to make this salad again, I'll bet)

1 1/2 cups (about 6 oz total) shredded Monterey Jack & Cheddar Cheeses (I get the already shredded Kraft or Tillamook "Mexican Style" cheese - with cheddar, jack & asiago cheeses - Don't get the kind with the pepper jack - unless you like it really spicy)

2 medium tomatoes - sliced into wedges

About 2 cups of "Taco Beef" - your favorite recipe or see below)

For the Dressing:
1 coddled egg OR 2-3 Tbsp. Regular Real Best Foods (or Hellmans for you folks on the East Coast) Mayonnaise - the Canola kind is OK - don't use the low fat - it will be icky) OK, you can use Kraft mayo too, but if you don't have a good quality mayo best to use the coddled egg

1/4 cup white wine vinegar - Don't use cider or plain white vinegar - it just won't taste right

1/2 cup canola oil

Salt & Pepper to taste

Pour your vinegar and oil into a pint jar, put your mayo & maybe 1/4 tsp salt & pepper in. Put a lid on the jar and shake the heck out of it until your mayo breaks down and you have a smooth dressing. You could also make this in a small bowl, using a whisk, but I think it's a lot faster to just use the "jar" method.

Just before you are ready to eat, distribute your shredded lettuce evenly between your plates. With your hands, kind of "mound" it up. Sprinkle crushed tortilla chips over each mound of lettuce, distribute your grated cheese evenly among the salads and put a couple of tomato wedges on each plate.

Drizzle the salad dressing over the salads and just before serving top each salad with a generous portion of hot Taco meat. Serve at once, offering bowls of a nice tomato salsa, guacamole and sour cream to add to the salad.

Since I was making mine for a crowd, I used a huge "not so deep" pasta serving bowl that we got oh, so many years ago as a wedding present. Put in your lettuce, sprinkle on all the crushed chips, and all the cheese. Garnish with the tomatoes, drizzle on all the dressing (actually I generally double the dressing and then use about 3/4 of the amount - I hate a dry salad) and then put your taco meat over the top.

There is just something about how the flavors of the crushed chips and the salad dressing mix with the cheese and the lettuce - yum - I'm making myself hungry!

And here's a Taco Beef recipe in case you don't have one.

1 medium yellow or sweet onion, peeled and chopped
1 TBSP chili powder or some Taco meat seasoning to taste
1# lean ground beef
1 tsp of salt (less if you are using taco meat seasoning)

Put your onion and a couple of tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook a few minutes until it starts to be limp. Add your chili powder and cook for a just few seconds then add your ground beef. Increase the heat to medium high and cook until the meat is browned through - 10 - 12 minutes. About half way through, I will often add a cup of pico de gallo for additional flavor. You want to make sure all the vegies in the pico get cooked through.

Hope you enjoy this salad - watch out, it's addictive!


Anonymous said...

Thanx for sharing that wonderful story and even better recipe! We LOVE tacos at our house and this weekend, our mom is making a taco pizza. Our little sisbean, who's going to be 4 on the 26th, is a taco JUNKIE!

Kathy said...

Thanks for sharing this, Gringa! (No Pepper Jack? Of course you could always slip in a jalapeno or two) heeheehee

Hope all is well there...

Rascal said...

Looks very tasty but can I just pick out the beef?

Tanisha said...

So excited to find this recipe. Love Dos Padres taco salad. I always get it with ref tied brand, yum. One ingredient you didn't include is alfalfa sprouts, which I feel are key yo the greatness. Thanks!