Texas Pickup Chili-Cheese Salad

Conveniently located across the street from the North Texas State University tennis courts in Denton, Texas Pickup was my favorite local spot to grab a burger or a salad after a few hours of playing tennis with my best friend Melanie.

Texas Pickup was a small place, with lots of dark wood panels, and the vibe was more backcountry bar than restaurant, but I just loved it here. Deciding between the burger and the salad was always a hard decision, but more often than not, the salad won, and I’d usually have a basket of home cut fries along with it, because why not?

Sadly, Texas Pickup closed sometime in the 80s, but I’ve never forgotten its Texas-style salad– heaps of warm chili poured over crisp pieces of iceberg lettuce, then covered with a mountain of shredded cheddar cheese and Fritos. That new white dressing, Ranch, was served on the side, which we’d drown the whole thing in.

The key to this is to wait until the cheese gets a bit melty on the chili before you dump the dressing on top — but you’d figure that, right?

Here’s my version of this salad, which uses turkey chili (but obviously you can use whatever you’d like), shredded cheddar, Fritos, and Romaine (because I can’t find iceberg around here). I make buttermilk dressing – a Cowgirlified version with cilantro and jalapenos – and serve it on the side, too.

Don’t you just love those big ‘ol tomato wedges?

All you do is put some lettuce on a plate or a really big bowl, heap some warmed-up chili on top, add a handful or two of shredded cheese, and some Fritos — and voila!

Since it’s now officially chili season, I thought that this would be the purrfect fall salad for our Friday round-the-world Twitter lunch bunch— New York-based Cheryl, Nicole in San Diego, and Karen in Atlanta — along with all the others.

See the other great fall salad posts by clicking on over to Twitter and typing in the hashtag, #letslunch.

Bon appetit, y’all!

Turkey Chili

2 pounds turkey, ground
1 large white onion, 1/4-inch dice
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
½ green bell pepper, 1/4-inch dice
¼ red bell pepper, 1/4-inch dice
3 16-oz. cans kidney beans, black beans, or a mixture, drained
2 32-oz. cans diced tomatoes
1 8-oz. can tomato paste
5 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cayenne
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons oregano
1 teaspoon paprika (smoky)
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 cups water
olive oil

1. Drizzle a bit of olive oil in a heavy, deep stockpot and add the onions and garlic. Turn the heat on medium and cook until the onions become translucent, 5-10 minutes.

2. Add the ground turkey and cook until cooked through.

3. Now, add the red and green bell peppers, tomatoes, tomato paste, beans and spices.

4. Turn heat down to low and cook for a couple of hours, adjusting seasonings if you need to along the way.

Jalapeno-Cilantro Buttermilk Dressing

1 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons creme fraiche or sour cream
1 lime, squeezed
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon shallot, diced
3-4 jalapenos (pickled)
1 handful cilantro
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
sea salt

1. Put shallot, cilantro, jalapenos in food processor and give it a whiz until these things are well combined.

2. Add lime juice, honey, buttermilk, and creme fraiche or sour cream and pulse a time or two.

3. Now, with the motor running, drizzle in the grapeseed oil. Add salt.