Tuesday, May 5, 2009

144. Taco Salad with Salsa Vinaigrette (p. 164)

Let's be honest here. Taco salad is something you'd expect to find in an Applebee's menu, not in The Gourmet Cookbook. But there it is in The Book, and so, I made this recipe.*

This being Gourmet, however, The Book calls for you to make your own tortilla chips (although the headnotes say, with a bit of a judgmental sigh, that store-bought chips are "perfectly fine"). Really, though, the chips couldn't be easier. Just heat some vegetable oil (I used canola) until it's good and hot. While the oil is heating, cut up some corn tortillas into wedges with your kitchen shears. Then pop a handful of the wedges into the hot oil for a few seconds until they crisp up and start to change color (they go from golden to brown very quickly, so resist the temptation to wait just one more second). Drain the chips on some paper towels and sprinkle them with a little bit of salt. There's nothing better than fresh, warm tortilla chips. These could be a recipe on their own in The Book, and I could see myself making these again some day.

Other than the crisp tortillas, the other thing that makes a taco salad a taco salad is the seasoned taco meat. The Book calls for ground chuck, but because my wife "don't eat no meat" I used ground turkey. First, I heated a little bit of oil in a pan and added some chopped onion, garlic, cumin and chili powder and cooked until the onions were soft. Then I added the turkey and some tomato paste and cooked until the turkey was done.

While the meat cooled a little bit, I made the salsa vinaigrette. I blended together some garlic, vinegar, lemon juice, cumin, salt and pepper. With the motor running, I poured some olive oil through the top opening of the blender until it was nice and emulsified. Then I added some chopped tomatoes, chopped jalapeno and cilantro and whizzed it up some more. The result was a creamy-looking, celadon colored dressing.

To plate the salad, I laid out some romaine lettuce on a couple of plates, topped it with a mound of the taco meat, some fresh tomato wedges and a handful of the homemade tortilla chips. I also added some shredded cheddar cheese to mine (my wife is stil dairy/soy/gluten free), and drizzled the vinaigrette on top of the salad.

I liked this salad. The meat was good, but the dressing was the real star. Bright and pungent with the cumin and jalapeno, with a nice creamy texture. My wife said that the salad was good but, "basic." For crying out loud, I made homemade tortilla chips, and she called it "basic"?!? What she meant, was that the lettuce and tomato combo was "basic," and she would have liked to have seen some avacado and diced red and green peppers. Oh, yeah. That would have been a nice touch.

Date Cooked: April 25, 2009
Degree of Difficulty: Easy
Rating: A-

*This recipe is not on epicurious.com.

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