Taco Bar for a Party of 24!

taco-party-posterHaving a taco party is a wonderful way to offer a meal that doesn't have to be eaten at a table - really important when having a large party. There were 24 including my husband and I at our recent get together. A few later arrivers didn't eat, so we did have leftovers for supper and lunch the next day. But it could have just as easily been all gone.

I learned this technique when visiting my brother and his family in Colorado Springs. My sister in law cooked the taco meat she liked ahead of time. Then she brushed cookie sheets lightly with vegetable oil.  Small flour tortillas were placed on each - as many as would fit with no more than a tiny overlap. She brushed each tortilla lightly with oil, flipped them over and brushed the other side.  Then taco meat was placed down the middle of each.

The oven had been preheated to 350 degrees.  A cookie sheet was placed on each of the two racks (my oven has 2 sections, so I can put in 3 sheets in at a time).  Let them heat just until the tortillas start to bubble a bit. You don't want them really brown as they get too crispy and break apart when eating. You want them hot, but a bit on the softer side so they fold easily.

illustration-tacos-salsa-chips-burritosWhen ready, just pull the trays out of the oven and have guests grab a paper plate, a taco or two. Then they add their toppings of choice as well as any additional side dishes you've chosen to round out the meal (I have those I chose listed below). While there is a lot of prep to doing this for a large crowd before they arrive, by the time the door bell starts ringing it's dead easy.

To take this on - start by making a list of everything you want to serve and print out recipes.  Then on another piece of paper go through every ingredient on every recipe, listing each item needed. Stopping to run to the store during prep time is the last thing you want.

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Here we go - 3 Meat Taco Bar for 24!

Meat -
3.5 lbs.             Crock Pot Beef Carne Asada - recipe HERE
4 lbs.                Marinated, BBQ'd Chicken Breast strips - see below
8 - 9                 Crispy Tilapia Fish Filets with Mango Pineapple Slaw - recipe HERE

Toppings - 
A few kinds of salsa - mild to hot

Prepared or homemade guacamole
Shredded lettuce
Prepared or homemade Chipotle Mayonnaise
Optional - shredded cheese, sliced black olives, pickled jalepenos, etc.


Other - 
40 - 50  Very small Flour Tortillas (about 5")
Extra large cookie sheets or foil oven liners.
Store bought or homemade citrus based
                  marinade for the fish.

To fill out the menu -
Make-ahead side dishes I offered -
             1. New Potatoes with Wild Onion Pesto
             2. Rainbow Slaw
Fruit and Vegetable trays are good choices
A dessert bar tray - Costco has a great one
Beverages - Here is what I offered.
              1. Water infused with Strawberry, Cucumber and Mint Leaves
              2. Water infused with Orange and Pineapple slices
              3. White Sangria Base Mix - see recipe HERE. Fill wineglass with 1/2 mix and
                    1/2 ginger ale (non-alcoholic) or 1/2 mix and 1/2 White wine (alcoholic). Add ice.
                    I doubled the base mix for a party this large. Needs a large container if you do this. I
                    used a big glass jar with tap.
              4. Suggest guests bring wine and beer.
Note - The night before -  for #1 and #2, just add the desired flavour ingredients to a pitcher,
                  fill with water and let set covered on the counter overnight. In the morning give it a good                     stir and then put it in the fridge to chill.

Image The Nix Company - Unsplash
The day before -  
1. Cook Carne Asada, cool and store in fridge
2. Cut Chicken Breasts into small thin strips.  Place in large Ziploc bag. Add 2 tsp Salt, 2 tsp Chili Powder, 1 tsp Garlic Powder, 1/4 C Vegetable Oil, 3/4 C Fresh Lime Juice. Mix all ingredients well and marinade overnight in the refrigerator.
3. If using frozen Tilapia filets, place in fridge to thaw.
4. Cut up all vegetables for Rainbow Slaw and Mango-Pineapple Slaw. Store them in separater Ziploc bags without dressing.
5. Make the onion pesto for the new potatoes. Store in fridge.
7. Prepare infused waters.
8. Prepare White Sangria Mix that needs to be made. This has to be
             kept cool because of the fruit juices, so if there isn't room in the fridge, put in in a cooler
            surrounded by ice. (Note - When doubled this is needs a bigger container and I had no more                 room in the fridge, so I placed it in a cooler and surrounded with ice overnight.)
9. Put a table cloth on the table if desired and set out all serving dishes, plates, napkins and glasses.

The morning of the party -
1. BBQ the chicken strips until thoroughly cooked. Store until ready to serve. If really early - in the fridge for safety, but bring them to room temperature before you start the tacos.
2. Fry the fish fillets and set aside.
3. Set Carne Asada on counter to bring to room temperature.
4.  Roast the new potatoes, toss with pesto and place in a microwaveable
    casserole with lid. Reheat in microwave about 10 minutes before you pop the tacos in the oven.
5. Put the slaw mixes in bowls, add dressings, cover and store in fridge until party time.
6. Put all taco building ingredients in bowls, cover and store in fridge until party time.


30 Minutes before guests start arriving - 
1. Set out all salads, taco building ingredients and place small bowl of vegetable oil, basting brush, 3 meats and oven trays beside stove.
2. Set out all drinks (wait on ice until they start arriving).
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

When you're ready to start serving the tacos -
Lightly brush your baking sheets or oven liners with oil. Place a single layer of tortillas on each (6-8 depending on tray size). Brush each lightly with oil, flip and brush the other side.  Place a bit of meat (or a fish slice) on each (1/3 of each kind of taco per tray), then place the tray in the oven until heated through and the tortillas are just starting to crisp. Have guests grab a plate and pick up the taco of their choice. Then they can head over to the table to add toppings and side dishes.

You did it!  This is a great summer meal for a crowd and probably the one I received the most positive response for.  Enjoy!