Does a salad always have to be served on a salad plate and eaten with a salad fork? If bread forms part of the salad, does the bread always have to be in the form of croutons? As far as I am concerned, the answers are no and no. I like variety.
So, a couple of nights ago, when Speedy asked what we were having for dinner, I said “taco salad.” I told him I’d put salad vegetables on a warmed tortilla and top them with pan fried slices of beef. He asked what the dressing would be and I said sour cream and chili sauce. And he was happy.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have sour cream. We didn’t even have cream so I could whip up some homemade sour cream. It turned out that I used all the cream in the house when I made dulce de leche ice cream (which was too sweet so I have to do a take two before I can write about it).
So how did I make good on my promise that the taco salad would have sour cream and chili sauce? I didn’t. But the dressing was tangy and spicy so, at least, I didn’t short-change him and his expectations to eat something that had sour and spicy notes. You don’t do that to Speedy — tell him you’re having one thing then serve something else. His mother told me a long time ago about that particular trait of her son. When you tell him he’s going to eat a particular dish, he imagines and anticipates and builds up a sort of gastronomic suspense. And if you kill the suspense by serving something else, he sulks.
So, there. At the very least, I had to make good on the “sour” and “spicy.” How? I improvised, of course. I took whatever was in the fridge and pantry and used them — including mayo, olive oil, lemon rind and juice, onion, garlic, dried herbs and finely chopped fresh bird’s eye chili.
The best beef for a salad like this is a cut that you’d ordinarily cook as a steak. Like rib-eye. Just ask the butcher to slice them for you — about an eighth of an inch (like for making cheese steak sandwich) thick is ideal.
Season the beef slices lightly with salt and pepper, cook over very high heat in a little butter, no more than 30 seconds per side.
- finely grated zest of one lemon
- 1 one clove of garlic finely grated
- 1/2 small half of a small onion also finely grated
- 2 to 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley (twice as much if using fresh)
- 1/4 tspteaspoon dried tarragon (again, twice as much if using fresh)
- juice of half a lemon
- 1 bird’s eye chili finely sliced
- salt to taste
- pepper to taste
- sugar to taste
- extra virgin olive oil enough to get the consistency that you like
Rinse the vegetables and dry. A salad spinner helps.
Make the dressing.
Place the grated zest, garlic and onion in a bowl. Add the mayonnaise, tarragon, parsley, lemon juice, a little salt, pepper and sugar, and about a tablespoonful of extra virgin olive oil. Stir until smooth.
Add the chili. Stir. Add more olive oil if the mixture is too thick. Add more salt, pepper or sugar, as needed.
Let the salad dressing sit and infuse while you cook the beef.
Sprinkle the beef with salt and pepper.
Heat the butter in a pan. Over high heat, cook the beef slices in a single layer and without overcrowding the pan. Once the underside browns (30 seconds or so), flip, cook another 30 seconds and transfer to a plate. Cover loosely with foil.
Assemble the taco salad.
Warm the tortillas. I do this on an oil-free pan and I sprinkle some water on the tortillas.
Place two to three warmed tortillas on a plate slightly overlapping one another. Place the salad vegetables along the middle. Drizzle some dressing over them. Arrange the beef slices on top of the vegetables. Drizzle with more dressing. Sprinkle with crisp onion slices.
Just in case you missed the very useful links in the post, here they are again: