Last weekend I rang in my 30's with a celebration fit for a homebody, patio-loving, taco-eating queen. I knew of no better way to celebrate this "major" birthday than to bring together my nearest and dearest, cook up a storm, and throw a classic backyard bash. We strung up lights, set up lawn games (including a pretty sweet hand-me-down ping pong table from my dad), and packed our coolers with cheap wine and even cheaper beer. It was a sweaty evening full of laughter, a little tequila, an entire bottle of Portuguese Ginjinha, and a whole lot of tacos.
Think a taco party is in your near future? Well, it should be! I honestly cannot think of anything better than the taco to both accommodate and excite a large group in the summer, without hours upon hours of prep and cook time. Tacos can be easily made vegetarian, vegan, dairy and gluten free and are best served buffet style allowing party goers the ability to pick their toppings.
After serving tacos at my wedding and now my 30th birthday, it is safe to assume that tacos have become a mainstay meal during any milestone event in my life.
In conclusion; make your guests happy, feed them tacos.
Here are the three taco styles I made, sides to go with, and a few tricks to keep your cool on the day-of.
- 2 dried Guajillo chiles
- 6 pounds pork shoulder (Boston butt), cut into 2-inch pieces, if possible
- 12 ounces gluten free lager or ale, I used Burning Brothers Pyro Pale Ale
- 6 garlic cloves, lightly crushed
- 1 teaspoons kosher salt (if you prefer saltier meat add 1 additional teaspoon)
- 2 teaspoons of cumin
- 1 tablespoon of mild to medium hot sauce like Crystal or Chulula
Toast chiles in a dry large heavy pot over medium heat until puffed and lightly darkened on both sides, about 2 minutes. Remove from pot; let cool. Stem chiles and halve lengthwise; discard seeds.
Bring chiles, pork, beer, garlic, salt, cumin and hot sauce and 1 cup water to a boil in same pot. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until pork is fork-tender, 70-90 minutes.
Uncover pork; simmer until liquid evaporates and pork begins to brown, 30-40 minutes. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, scraping bottom of pot, and turning pork until meat is browned and easily shred-able with a fork, 10-15 minutes.
Add 1 cup water to pork; cook, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pot, for about 1 minute.
Remove fat and bone, if bone-in, and pull meat into separate bowl. If any liquids remain in pot spoon up and poor over meat
**Party Tip** Cook a day ahead and refrigerate. A couple hours before the party, put meat in a crock pot, set to warm. If meat dries out, reheat in large skillet with a little water or chicken broth until liquids are absorbed.
Cabbage and Jicama Slaw Ingredients
- 1 bunch cilantro
- ½ cup sour cream
- 1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
- 4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1/2 large head of purple cabbage (makes a nice color contrast), very thinly sliced (about 5 cups)
- 1 small jicama, peeled, julienned or finely sliced (about 1 cup)
Cabbage and Jicama Slaw Directions
Separate stems and leaves from cilantro and coarsely chop leaves. Purée or pulse in food processor cilantro stems, sour cream, lime zest, and lime juice.
Transfer cilantro mixture to a large bowl and whisk in mayonnaise; season with salt and pepper. Toss in cabbage, jicama, and chopped cilantro leaves.
Serve Carnitas on warm corn tortillas, toppings of choice (see below) and a spoonful of Jicama Cabbage slaw.
Pollo de Tinga Tacos with Fresh Onion and Cilantro
adapted from this Muy Bueno Cookbook recipe
Pollo de Tinga Ingredients
Serves 10-12 tacos
- 8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 8 oz. low/no sodium chicken stock
- Approx. 2 tablespoons olive oil
Shredded Chicken Directions
- Pat chicken dry and lightly salt and pepper
- In a large 12-inch nonstick skillet with a lid, heat the olive oil over medium heat until hot. Place the chicken top-side down in the hot skillet and let the chicken cook for 5 minutes until golden brown on top.
- Flip the chicken, add broth, cover and let chicken simmer gently over medium heat for 7-10 minutes until the chicken is cooked through (160 degrees).
- If the liquid evaporates before chicken is cooked, add additional water and lower heat
- Remove the chicken from the skillet. Let it cool slightly before shredding. Set aside shredded chicken.
- 2 cloves or garlic
- 2 yellow onions, 1 quartered, 1 chopped
- 2-3 medium stewed tomatoes. Stew your own or use 1-2 cans of stewed tomatoes (if you prefer a more tomato-y flavor use 2 cans)
- 1 can Chipotle Peppers in Adobo sauce
- Approx 1/4 cup olive or canola oil
- 2-3 teaspoons salt (use less or more depending on your flavor preference)
- 2 cups no/low sodium chicken broth
- In a skillet over medium heat, heat about one tablespoon of oil, add quartered onions and saute for 1-2 minutes, then add garlic. Cook until translucent. Remove from heat and set aside.
- In a blender, add the sauteed onion and garlic, stewed tomatoes, chipotle peppers including adobo sauce (use only 1 pepper if you prefer less spice), 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1 cup of chicken broth. Puree until smooth.
- Heat about 1 tablespoon of oil in a large and deep 12" skillet over medium heat. Once it is hot but not smoking, stir in the chopped onion and cook until soft and translucent, about 2 minutes.
- Add shredded chicken and the chipotle sauce from the blender. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. If sauce does not completely cover chicken, stir in more broth, 1/4 a cup at a time.
- **Party tip** Make a day ahead and refrigerate. A few hours before the party, place in a crock pot set to warm. Note that the chipotle peppers will continue to develop and settle over time making the Tinga spicier.
Serve Pollo de Tinga on warm corn tortillas with fresh onion and cilantro mixture alongside sliced radish and lime.
Black Bean and Corn Tacos with Cotija Cheese and Avocado
Black Bean and Corn Medley Ingredients
Makes about 10-12 tacos
1 large red onion
4 cloves of garlic
1-2 serrano peppers (1 if you prefer less spice)
2 12oz cans of black beans (you can prepare these from scratch if you're feeling ambitious)
2 12oz cans of corn
1 tablespoon cumin
6 Ripe, yet still slightly firm, avocados
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 package of Cotija Cheese
Black Bean and Corn Medley Directions
- If using canned beans and corn, rinse together in colander and let air dry or pat dry with paper towel
- In a 12" nonstick frying pan, heat olive oil over medium flame. Add onion and cook for 2 minutes, just as they become translucent. Add garlic and cook another 1 minute. Add peppers, cook one more minute.
- Add beans and corn, season with salt, pepper and cumin and saute until warm, about 4 minutes.
- Remove from heat and transfer to serving bowl
Serve Bean and Corn Medley with Cotija cheese and sliced avocado with choice of hot sauce
The meat of a taco is only as good as its sides. While there is definitely an art to pairing taco fixings (one I clearly take seriously) it is nice to provide all the options for your guests as you never know what a good taco means to them. Here are a few I always set out:
- Diced raw white onion
- Chopped cilantro
- Sliced radish
- Quartered limes
- Chopped hot peppers
- Pickled jalapenos
- Crema or sour cream
- Lots of hot sauces with a good mixture of spiciness, chunkiness and tomato to tomatillo base
- Shredded mozzarella and Cotija cheese
For tortillas, I'm a corn tortilla gal all the way. First, because of the flavor; a nicely warmed corn tortilla is a little chewy with a flaky texture and has a delicious nutty taste. Second, they're authentic. Last, as a celiac I can't eat the flour ones. There are a few different ways to heat them up with the most simple being a warmed cast iron skillet or griddle. Cover the surface with tortillas and flip a few times until they're pliable. Keep warm in a tortilla warmer or lidded flat-bottom dish wrapped in a warm towel. Another option, that gives more chew than flake, is to heat a small stack on a skillet with some oil. This method gives the tortilla a little more durability and tends to bring out the nutty flavor. You can also buy fresh! If you are lucky enough to live near a mercado or tortilleria that presses their own, go there. Hands down, they are the best option.
That does it for my wisdom on the taco. What are your favorites? Got any other tricks of the taco-making trade?