Taco salad is one of those recipes that conjures up all kinds of memories, and basically all of them good. Even though I haven't eaten it in well over 15 years, I can still picture the glorious mess: seasoned ground beef, heaps of cheese, sour cream, salsa, that fried tortilla shell, and, of course, just enough shredded lettuce to make the salad in the title not a complete lie.
But when dared by fellow SE editor Erin to recreate one, I stared down the terrifying reality that most recipes called for one of those taco seasoning packets and blinked. Instead, I met my memory halfway and went with this recipe from the San Francisco Chronicle, which makes some minor adjustments, while still staying true to the essential taco salad DNA.
The result is an honest-to-goodness taco salad that has all the flavors of a classic one, minus the seasoning packet. That isn't to say it's a particularly healthy salad—sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese still make an appearance—but now there is a lot more lettuce, and grilled steak has been substituted for the ground beef.
At first, I found this version far too polite and restrained, which is basically a slap in the face of everything a real taco salad stands for. My advice? Crumble those chips with your hands, and add another spoonful of salsa and sour cream, and mix that up. The transformation is astonishing. This is a taco salad I wouldn't mind having in my life more often.
- 1 pound skirt steak
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- salt and pepper
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 large head romaine lettuce, end trimmed, leaves thinly sliced
- 1 English cucumber, peeled and diced
- 1 large tomato, stemmed and diced
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 avocado, pitted and diced
- 3/4 cup chunky tomato salsa, divided
- 4 tablespoons sour cream, divided
Sprinkle each side of the skirt steak with the cumin, chile powder, and pinch of both salt and pepper. Pour the oil into a large cast-iron skillet set over medium-high heat. When oil starts to shimmer, add the skirt steak. Cook until medium rare, three to four minutes a side, depending on how thick the steak is. (130°F. is the ideal, so if the exterior is nicely caramelized, but the inside registers below that on a meat thermometer, just reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking until it is right.) When done, set the steak aside for at least five minutes. Slice into 1/4-inch thick slices.
In a large bowl, add the romaine, cucumber, tomato, cheese, avocado, 1/2 cup salsa, and two tablespoons of the sour cream. Toss until combined. Season with salt and pepper.
Divide the mixture between four large bowls. Add tortilla chips along the sides of the bowl, or simply crumble them up and toss them in. Top each bowl with a 1/4 of the grilled steak, plus an extra spoonful of the salsa and sour cream. Serve immediately.