Throw the World’s Best Taco Party

Food, How-To

Photo: Leigh Loftus

From hipster food trucks to high-end restaurants, tacos are here in a big way. But what could be better than a Saturday night at your neighborhood taco shop? An at-home taco party, that’s what. It’s similar to the pizza party slumber parties you enjoyed as a child –lots of delicious toppings and an excuse to sip on a perfect margarita. Or five.  So get out your tortilla press, invite a few of your closest foodie friends and get ready for a tasty taco fiesta.

Now, when we say “taco party,” we aren’t talking about breaking out a package of spice and a box of hard taco shells. We mean taking your favorite protein and creating your own signature taco, topped with perfect party salsa or fresh salsa verde. Add a pinch of dried or fresh chile peppers and some perfect guacamole. Even though they aren’t the most authentic additions, add chopped tomatoes, shredded cheese or sour cream if you like to pack even more flavor into your tortilla.

Photo: Leigh Loftus

Choose Your Tortillas Wisely

The tortilla is the glue that holds your taco together, quite literally. We’re fans of corn tortillas, but whether you pick corn or flour, you’ll want to look for the freshest available (usually in the ethnic foods aisle or refrigerated section of your grocery store). Look for small tortillas, about the size of a hamburger bun or your palm. Serve the tortillas warm according to the directions on the package. If you’re cooking ahead, you can wrap a stack of hot tortillas in foil tightly.

Keep Your Fillings Simple

The best taco bars will offer variety. If you’re serving a crowd, whip up two or three fillings. We like to offer a steak option, a poultry or seafood option and a vegetarian option. If you’re only feeding a small group, pick one that will please all palates. Since building the perfect taco can be a complex endeavor, keep your filling simple. Our favorite steak tacos are grilled with a simple homemade spice rub and bursting with flavor. We’re also a fan of shrimp tacos with spicy citrus slaw and spicy fish tacos.

If you don’t have access to a grill or you’re pressed for time, ask your butcher to slice your steak for tacos or fajitas (sometimes you can already find this prepackaged in the butcher section of your grocery store). You can sauté the steak in a pan on your stovetop with the spices for an equally delicious final result. When you build your tacos, use about two spoonfuls of filling — you’ll want to save room for guacamole and toppings.

Photo: Leigh Loftus

Serve Salsas with a Kick

When it comes to salsa, pico de gallo style salsa is a must. Tomato, onion and cilantro bursting wit flavor is a perfect way to season your taco and add acidity to the richness of items like steak and avocado. Use your favorite guacamole recipe as a condiment (it’s also perfect for snacking while you’re waiting for your taco spread). If you want to mix things up, offer a variety of seasonal salsas: like apple walnut salsa in the fall or peach salsa in the summer.

Provide the Finishing Touches

This is where the taco-making gets personal. Set out bowls of shredded red cabbage, shredded romaine lettuce, lime wedges, white onion, red onion, crumbled queso fresco, shredded cheddar cheese, sliced radishes, sour cream, chopped tomatoes, chopped peppers — you name it. Let your guests top their own tacos as simply or as extensively as they like. Some will opt for a squeeze of lime and some queso, while others will pile on the toppings so high that they’ll need a fork.

Then you’ll see why, when it comes to feeding a crowd of hungry friends and family, there’s no party like a taco night party.

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