Just in time for Cinco de Mayo! My all-time favorite party idea: the taco bar. Now, add a margarita bar to the mix ... it just doesn't get any better! See how it's all done and get a sneak-peak into the tortilla factory that produces some of the best tortillas and masa in the city. Obviously, I had to get the best tortillas for my taco bar. :) Unnecessary, yes - but so much fun! If you're in the NYC-area, I highly recommend you take your own field trip to Queens to check it out.
And if you've been toying with the idea of hosting your own Sunday Funday party, I think now is the time. Cinco de Mayo is happening on a Sunday this year. Get on it!
Offer up a margarita bar with an assortment of fruit purées, herbs, and sliced chiles. I also found a shortcut for squeezing all of the citrus you'll need for the base of the margarita. Ask your friends to bring the tequila and orange liqueur.
For the taco bar, you'll have a couple salsas, a few filling options, and more easy additions like sliced scallion and cotjta cheese. Arrange it all prettily on a bar/buffet situation and let your guests get busy.
Dessert might just be my favorite creation yet: salted caramels coated with mexican chocolate ... and the kicker ... Mezcal shots! I've become obsessed with the idea to pair mezcal and caramel and this was the perfect way to make it happen. Mexican because of the chocolate, but way cooler (and by this I mean less obvious) than, like, fried ice cream.
Did I mention Cinco de Mayo happens to fall on a Sunday this year? What are you waiting for!? ;)
// menu //
fruit purées: pineapple, blueberry, mango
herbs: mint, basil, cilantro
chile peppers: serrano, habanero
skirt steak + bone marrow
squid in salsa verde
marinated kale + roasted shiitake mushrooms
plus sour cream, sliced scallion, cotija cheese
salted mexican chocolate-covered caramels + mezcal shots
// how to do it //
To make the citrus margarita base: Look for Ripe Bar Juice - Agave Lemon Sour if you can find it. If not, substitute with the best organic lemonade you can find. Combine 2 cups lemon-agave blend, 1 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice (you can purchase this), 1 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice, and 1/2 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice. Add agave to taste (you want it lightly sweetened but still very tart to balance the tequila and the fruit purée - I added 2 tablespoons agave to my mixture).
To make the fruit purées: Buy bagged, frozen fruit and purée in a blender. Add 1/4 cup water per bag and agave to sweeten, if necessary (I only had to sweeten my mango).
For the chiles: Seed and slice thinly. Be careful with these - they are spicy! A good time to break out the gloves.
To cook the skirt steak: Bring meat to room temperature (or close to - at least 30 minutes out of the fridge). Get a large skillet nice and hot over medium-high heat. Salt the meat very generously. Coat the pan in grapeseed oil (or another neutral oil with a high smoke-point like canola or vegetable) - it will be hot enough that the oil smokes a little. Add steaks to the pan and cook for 3 to 5 minutes on each side, or until you have developed a nice crust on both sides. Make sure to get good contact with the pan and don't move it around - only flipping once. Let rest for 10 minutes before slicing against the grain.
To roast the bone marrow: Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Roast, depending on size, for 12 to 15 minutes. Scoop the marrow out with a spoon or knife and serve with sea salt.
To make the squid: Combine 1/2 bunch scallion, 1/2 bunch cilantro, 1 shallot, and 2 or 3 garlic cloves in food processor. Process, streaming in olive oil until you reach desired consistency. Season with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. (This makes enough for about 2 pounds squid.) Cut cleaned squid into rings and dry well. Toss in salsa verde and allow to marinate for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and cook squid in batches, 2 or 3 minutes each batch, until squid are just opaque and starting to curl just slightly at the edges.
To marinate the kale: Remove ribs from one bunch of dinosaur kale. Roll up the leaves and chiffonade (thinly slice). Toss with juice of 1 lemon, 1 to 2 cloves pressed or minced garlic, and a sprinkling of kosher salt. Refrigerate until ready to serve (overnight or hours in advance).
To roast the mushrooms: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove stems from mushrooms and coat lightly in olive oil. Season with salt. Roast on baking sheet until browned, about 20 minutes. Allow to cool and slice.
To make the caramels: First prepare Ina's recipe for salted caramels. If you're scared, check out this video - also happens to be the first video I ever made! Once caramels have been cut into pieces, place onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerate. Chop up Mexican chocolate (I used the Taza brand - 3 discs were just enough for one batch of caramels) using a double boiler (place a heatproof metal or glass bowl over a pot of simmering water, whisking to melt the chocolate). Drop caramels into the chocolate and remove using 2 forks. Transfer back to parchment-lined baking sheet and sprinkle with Maldon or Fleur de Sel.
// when to do it //
Saturday: Shop. Make citrus base (the real deal sour mix). Marinate kale. Make caramels. Transfer frozen fruit to refrigerator.
Sunday: Coat caramels in chocolate. Make salsas. Make fruit purées. Roast mushrooms. Slice herbs, chiles, and scallion. Cook squid (if you do this in advance, you can refrigerate and then flash in the oven to reheat just slightly so it's not cold.) Cook steak and roast bone marrow either just prior to guests' arrival or while they are there. I gave my friends a fun little cooking lesson on cooking the skirt steak! And the bone marrow, there's nothing to it.