30-Minute Taco Salad

I usually have a good idea of how something will turn out during the cooking process. Also because I’ve had my share of taco salads, I thought this was shaping up to be just a regular taco salad. But In the 9 months that I’ve been at this (this is my 77th new recipe in 2010) this recipe is my biggest surprise. There was nothing unusual in the list of ingredients to tip me off that I was about to eat the world’s best Taco Salad. It is set apart by the cilantro-lime vinaigrette. Amazing. But it did take me 60 minutes, not 30.  (Update September 2011: See some improvements the second time I made this here.)

World’s Best Taco Salad takes closer to 60 minutes to make.

Results: 5-stars without a doubt. The best taco salad I’ve ever eaten. The boys happily ate the taco salad, but wouldn’t add the vinaigrette. They didn’t seem to notice that the lettuce was already dressed with that same vinaigrette.

  1. Even though 30-minutes is part of the title of the recipe, it took 60-minutes. If everything is pre-peeled, shredded, diced and prepared then perhaps I could have completed in 40-minutes.
  2. I did cut my finger while dicing the tomatoes (adding 5 minutes). It was just carelessness.
  3. Because I mistakenly thought that I already had shallot, it didn’t make it onto my shopping list, so I substituted 1/4 of a very small onion to make the vinaigrette.

Rating: 5-stars.
Cost: $10.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Big Mess.
Started: 5:30 PM.  Dinnertime:  6:30 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original taco salad recipe is here, and the cilantro-lime vinaigrette is here. It comes from Chris Kimball’s book, The Best 30 Minute Recipes.  The descriptions of how I prepared the salad today are given below:

Beef Mixture:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion
2 tablespoons chili powder
4 garlic cloves
1-lb 90% lean ground beef
8-oz can tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 head romaine lettuce
2 tomatoes
1 avocado
4-oz cheddar cheese, or Mexican cheese blend
Tortila chips for serving

  1. Mince onion and peel 4 garlic cloves.
  2. Preheat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in 12” non-stick skillet over medium heat. Saute onion and chili powder for 4 minutes until the onion has softened. Press 4 cloves of garlic directly into skillet and cook for 30 seconds.
  3. Stir in ground beef, breaking into smallish pieces. Cook for 9 minutes until slightly browned. Add tomato sauce and simmer for 2 minutes.
  4. While beef cooks tear romaine lettuce into bit-sized pieces and put on a very large serving platter. Grate cheese; set aside. Also core and cut your two tomatoes into medium-sized dice, and cut your avocado into 1/2” cubes. Set tomatoes and avocado aside separately.
  5. Season beef mixture with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, then set aside to cool slightly while making dressing.

Lime Vinaigrette Dressing:
1 shallot
1 jalapeño chile
1 small garlic clove
5 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from 2-1/2 to 3 limes)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

  1. Peel garlic and shallot, and cut into rough quarters. Add to blender.
  2. Stem jalapeno and remove seeds. Add to blender.
  3. Freshly squeezed lime juice is key for flavor here, so squeeze the limes into measuring cup for more accurate measuring.
  4. Add 5 tablespoons lime juice, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to blender.
  5. Process for 15 seconds.
  6. Roughly chop cilantro and measure 1/2-cup. Add to blender.
  7. With blender running, add oil, and continue to process for 15 more seconds, or until the dressing is smooth and emulsified.

Final Assemly:

  1. Toss 1/2-cup of vinaigrette with torn lettuce until evenly coated.
  2. Place a ring of tortilla chips around the outer edge of serving plate, tucking under the lettuce if necessary. Top with beef. Sprinkle grated cheese, diced tomatoes, and avocado cubes. Drizzle anther 1/4-cup of vinaigrette over top of salad. Pass the remaining dressing separately.
  3. When serving to individual plates I like to first lay down a bed of tortilla chips. It can also be served with salsa or sour cream.
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12 Responses to 30-Minute Taco Salad

  1. lorri says:

    I loooooooooooove cilantro. I will make the dressing today and the taco salad in the next day or two. Thanks for this!

    On a related topic, one of the chain stores close to me started carrying Jenny-O ground turkey “taco flavor”. I usually don’t buy pre-seasoned meats but I tried this and it’s really good. I was surprised. I am sure it’s a new product for them and this store must be one of the test markets. Watch for it ~

  2. lanier says:

    Thanks for the great review. I’ve changed this week’s menu to include this recipe. It sounds delicious!

    I had the same reaction to the Cook’s Country Greek salad. Adding feta and yogurt to the dressing made a world of difference. If you haven’t tried that one, I highly recommended it!

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  4. Christi says:

    Thanks for posting this recipe! I made this last night with turkey instead of beef. It was delicious! Took 27 minutes from start to finish. So it’s a perfect weeknight meal. We’re having it again tonight. (I just realized I forgot to add the shredded cheese to the salad. Oops!)

    • Glad to know that you enjoyed it as much as I did. I guess you are a better cook than I am to finish it within the prescribed 30 minutes. Actually, looking back at the recipe I guess I was just disorganized in my slicing and dicing. Had I made better use of my time I don’t see anything in the recipe that should have taken me so long.

  5. […] This recipe uses peeled shrimp (with the tails left on), and then nestles them closely onto the skewers. This reduces the surface area, simulates thicker (more expensive) shrimp, and slows the cooking process. In theory, the shrimp will not finish cooking under the broiler, but will finish on the stove-top in the sauce. In my case, the shrimp was cooked all the way through under the broiler, so I served them on the skewers. This was my first 5-star meal in almost two months; since the 30-Minute Taco Salad. […]

  6. […] originally made this recipe almost a year ago. I was completely surprised and happily gave the recipe 5-stars. The only down-side was that it […]

    • Paul Kierstead says:

      Seem this come up in my feed, so I fed 🙂 Made it tonight for supper and, indeed, a most excellent taco salad! Very enjoyable, thanks for the recommendation. And yeah, took upwards of an hour. 30-min in what universe?

  7. Carmen Merriam says:

    Love this meal! My husband hasn’t even altered the recipe much, which is almost unheard of for him. The one change he made was substituting veggie crumbles for the meat, can’t tell the difference.

  8. […] taco salad (Cook’s Illustrated 30-Minute Meals) […]

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