Taco Salad

IMG_4542When I was growing up, on the nights when there was no time to make dinner, my mom and I used to stop at ToGo’s and get taco salad. I can’t remember exactly what was in this salad, but I remember it being amazingly good. I think there was ground beef, lots of tortilla chips, grated cheese, and maybe pickled jalapeños? Ever since then, I’ve always enjoyed a taco salad for dinner.

This version is my modern take on the old school classic from my teenage years. It has grilled chicken (that’s marinated in a tequila lime spice mixture), tons of veggies, rice and beans (whenever I have leftover rice and beans I toss them into some sort of salad), smoked mozzarella, homemade tortilla crisps, and a chipotle lime vinaigrette. There are quite a few steps and lots of ingredients, but the finished salad is so worth it. It’s an entire meal on it’s own and it taste scrumptious the next day!

Taco Salad

4 tablespoons olive oil
1 lime, juiced
2 tablespoons silver tequila
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Tortilla Crisps:
3 corn tortillas, sliced into 1/2 inch strips vertically and once in half horizontally
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Garlic powder, smoked paprika, chili powder, cumin for sprinkling

Chipotle Lime Vinaigrette:
1 chipotle chili, minced
1 lime, juiced
1 tablespoon honey
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup olive oil

10 leaves romaine lettuce, chopped
1/2 red pepper, charred on grill, then diced
1/2 jalapeño, charred on the grill, then diced
3 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup leftover rice and beans
1/2 ear corn, sliced off the cob
8 black olives, diced
2 roma tomatoes, diced
1 avocado, pit and skin discarded, diced
2-3 tablespoons cilantro leaves
1/2 cup grated smoked mozzarella cheese

  1. Start by making the marinade: In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, lime juice, tequila, garlic, and spices. Season generously with salt. Liberally season the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides. Place the chicken in the bowl and turn to coat each piece in the marinade. Cover with a plate or saran wrap and place in the refrigerator for a few hours and up to over night.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the tortilla crisps: Preheat the oven to 375°F. Place the tortilla strips on a baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil and season generously with salt, black pepper, garlic powder, smoked paprika, chili powder, and cumin. Using your hands toss everything together. Make sure the tortilla strips are in an even layer. Bake in the oven, rotating the baking sheet once halfway through, for about 10 minutes, until the tortillas are browned and crisp. Set aside to cool.
  3. When you’re ready to enjoy the salad, preheat the a grill to low direct heat. Place the chicken thighs on the grill and cook turning often until brown, juicy, and fragrant about 18 minutes. Let cool, then slice on the bias into 1/2-inch pieces.
  4. While the chicken cooks, make the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, whisk together the chipotle chili, lime, honey, salt and pepper. Gradually whisk in the olive oil.
  5. Place the lettuce in a large bowl and pour 1-2 tablespoons over the top of the lettuce. Toss well. Transfer to a large serving platter.
  6. Place the red pepper, jalapeño, green onions, rice and beans, and corn in the same bowl. Drizzle another couple of tablespoons over the top of the veggies. Toss to combine than arrange over the top of the lettuce on the serving platter.
  7. Sprinkle the olives, tomatoes, avocado, and cilantro over the top of the vegetables and lettuce. Cover with the grated cheese and the tortilla crisps. Place the chicken down the middle of the platter. Drizzle the remaining vinaigrette over the top. Enjoy immediately.

Serves 4.


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