How to make ‘secret’ sauce and the best taco salad

We had a conversation in the Test Kitchen recently about how, because we’re chefs, people assume we are fancy eaters at home. And that we create gourmet meals for friends and family every day. Turns out this is not (always)  the case. Just like regular food-loving folks we need to feed ourselves and our families every day – and sometimes this task is a grind.

I often rely on little cheats and quick fixes in order to get my family fed – especially after a day of rigorous recipe development and testing in the Test Kitchen. One of my go-to dinners is taco salad. Partly because my partner requests “Mexican” for dinner at least once a week (I’m still not entirely sure what this means to him), partly because it makes good use of lots of bits and bobs from the fridge and almost entirely because I get to whip up a batch of my ‘secret’ sauce.

secret sauce and taco salad

Secret sauce is a dead-easy and really yummy combination of the tart, spicy qualities of a good salsa and the smooth creaminess of a good ranch dressing. I use it to boost taco salad,  as a dip for tortillas or nachos and if I’m feeling really lazy, as a ‘sauce’ for grilled chicken. Depending on its intended use, I usually mix 2/3 salsa and 1/3 ranch dressing. Less dressing if I want a thicker sauce and more dressing if I’m looking for something thinner.

For the taco salad: Fry lean ground beef in a skillet with a generous sprinkling of chili powder, some ground coriander, ground cumin, garlic powder, a few spoonfuls of salsa and a pinch of salt until cooked through and a little bit crispy. Transfer to a bowl. Place on the table along with toppings of your choice – shredded iceberg lettuce, sliced radish, chopped avocado, quartered grape or cherry tomatoes, chopped peppers, shredded cheese and tortillas or tostadas. Don’t forget the secret sauce! Let everyone go to town assembling their own salads.