Tacos for a Crowd


It’s my birthday on Saturday, and rather than going out to dinner, I decided to do what I enjoy the most: cook for others.  I suspected it might be a sizable crowd, so I decided to just serve tacos, which are easy, can be eaten while standing up, and are still incredibly tasty.

So last weekend, I smoked a beef brisket and two pork shoulders (thanks for the use of the Weber Smoky Mountain Cooker, Chad).  The brisket was too lean and is consequently a bit dry, so I’ll be sure to toss it with some sort of sauce before serving, maybe a roasted tomato chipotle salsa.  Any suggestions.

The pork is nice and unctuous, with lots of fatty parts throughout.  I may cut it up into cubes and through it in a hot cast iron skillet to give it some more brown bits — a quick style carnitas, of sorts.  I’m thinking a green chili salsa would work with that.  Or I could do a quick “pastor” style dish with some roasted pineapple.

I’ve got a bunch of boneless chicken thighs that I want to cook, but I haven’t figured out what to do with them.  Any ideas, folks?

My friend Phoebe is getting me freshly made corn tortillas from Taqueria La Vaquita in Durham.

The only side I’ll make is a big pot of Rancho Gordo beans that can be served in cups.  It will be vegetarian, so there will be something for my non-carnivorous friends.

Other than that, we’ll have some queso fresco, cilantro, lime, onions and avocado.  Am I missing anything?

Oh, tequila and cerveza, of course.  I picked up 5 bottles of tequila and 2 bottles of Cointreau.  That’s a good start.

For dessert, we’ll have Mexican chocolate sandwich cookies (filled with dulce de leche), Mexican wedding cookies, cinnamon pound cake, and vanilla pound cake.

It should be a lot of fun, and I’ve already done most of the work, except for the chicken and the salsas.  This way I can just put out food at a casual pace and not worry too much.  I may not know much about Mexican cooking, but that’s not gonna stop me.  Now where did I put that shot glass??

I really don’t know what I’m doing, just winging it as I go along.


19 Responses to Tacos for a Crowd

  1. Globe says:

    I have a pretty good pastor marinade you could reheat the pork in, we put out a lot of well received pork tacos based on this, if you are interested let me know and I can post it for everyone.

  2. Globe says:

    Just for you Varmint.

    6 oz Achiote Paste (1 pack found in Latin Stores)
    10 cloves Garlic
    2 c Orange Juice
    2 Limes Juiced
    2 Bay Leaves
    2 t Cumin
    1/2 t Cinnamon
    2 t Thyme
    1 t Oregano
    2 t Black Pepper
    5 T Salt

    Put it all in a food processor. We normally marinate 2 pork shoulder butts cubed in this for an hour and then braise it off really slow until tender. To reheat already cooked pork add just a bit of water and simmer the pork and watch the salt if your pork is already seasoned, I would say omit it all together and then adjust it at the end.

    Sour oranges are more traditional and can be substituted for the Orange Juice and Lime Juice.


  3. mkwewer says:

    Saw this on another food blog and it might be fun…Happy B-day!

    Recipe for Watermelon-Lime Agua Fresca

    Pieces of one watermelon, pureed and strained
    Equal amount of water (to watermelon juice)
    Simple syrup, to taste
    1/4 c lime juice

    Mix and serve over ice.

  4. VaNC says:

    Omigod, is that the recipe for the pork tacos at Globe? I dream of those! Of course, like with most recipes I get from chefs, when I try to make them at home….just not the same.

    Varmint, I vote al pastor. I have to admit to being glad that Mattie made Nutcracker again, as it means another couple months of Saturday afternoons at the Carolina Ballet studios…in close proximity to Berreria Fonda…the best mex in town….mmmmm…..

  5. Varmint says:

    I really can’t make true al pastor, simply because the pork is already cooked. But I think I’ll take one of the shoulders, shred it, and then re-heat it with this marinade. I bought the achiote today, along with 70 limes.

    I also bought some more beef to braise and maybe combine it with the brisket in a chipotle salsa.

    I need to get beer. Lots and lots of beer.

  6. Michael says:

    Happy B Day! Lots and lots of salsa. Any great recipes for Salsa? Those corn tort are the best.

  7. Jeff says:

    The chicken – cut it up, sprinkle with a tablespoon of cumin per pound of bird, salt, pepper, and several cloves of freshly minced garlic. Cook in canola oil with some chopped yellow onions. Near the end of cooking, toss in some tequila (1.5 oz per pound of chicken) and let it cook long enough for the alcohol to evaporate.

    Salsa: fresh tomatoes, fresh cherry bomb peppers, fresh garlic, cumin, oregano, salt, pepper, cider vinegar, and…Kahlua. Whir it to oblivion. It’s not all that hot, so add fresh hot peppers of your choice as desired.

  8. JoshD says:

    You can make chicken tinga with the thighs. Basically you roast the thighs, shred them and mix them with a basic salsa verde (tomatillos, chilis garlic, onions. and cilantro either boiled or sauteed and then pureed). You can add chile arbol for some heat. For the beef briskets, you may add some extra beef and braise it with chile guajillo allspice and some diced tomatoes. its kinda like barbacoa. Hope this helps.

  9. Varmint says:

    Very helpful. Thanks a ton, Josh. And you, too, Jeff. But kahlua in the salsa???

  10. Hodad says:

    I wish Cat could whip up a batch of her hi-octane margaritas. We’ll be in Helsinki that night and will be thinking of the good times in Raleigh.

  11. Varmint says:

    May you find good herring in Finland. Wish y’all were here.

  12. Jeff says:

    Kahlua…no kidding. About one tbsp per pound of tomatoes. It’s one of those things that nobody will be able to discern, but it makes a difference.

  13. Hodad says:

    Lots of roe too. We did halibut tacos this summer and dressed (!) them with a few green and red salsa. Next time we’ll whir to oblivion, I like it.

  14. lynn says:

    fish for the non meat eaters…

  15. David Williams says:

    For beer, the just released Big Boss “Harvest Time – Pumkin Spiced Ale” may go well with your menu.

    Usually I am not a fan of pumkin beer, but I had this with fajitas last weekend and it paired very well.

  16. mark says:

    Great idea! Happy birthday, comrade. Glad you got the hook up from Phoebe, because those Vaquita tortillas are perfecto.

  17. Varmint says:

    Come join us, Mark!

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