Cook up a soft-taco bar and let guests roll their own dinner

Atlanta Journal-ConstitutionAugust 31, 2013 


Creating a taco bar at home is no longer the realm of ready-to-go kits with spice packets and jarred sauces. Making your own versions is the way to go with fillings such as this pork al pastor with peach salsa.


The notion of the do-it-yourself taco bar has many mothers, going back to those cheap feed-the-kids kits that include seasoning mix, taco shells and sauce.

But it was the “Roll Your Own” section of the 1997 cookbook “License to Grill” by Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby that won me over to the idea that a taco bar could be creative fun for tailgating or a cocktail party.

Schlesinger and Willoughby built their bar around marinated meat and seafood grilled on skewers and served with an abundance of mix-and-match garnishes.

Right now, food trucks are a major taco delivery system – part of a scene that’s as much social as culinary, and revels in cross-cultural experimentation with favors from around the world.

Inspired by all that, we’ve taken to making taco fillings and salsas that borrow spicy, sweet and savory ingredients from Mexican, Korean, Indian and Southern cooking traditions. Laying them out buffet-style with some sides lets you feed a crowd, while your guests mingle and make a plate.

Set up the bar with the fillings and salsas, baskets of warm corn and flour tortillas wrapped in kitchen towels, and platters of crispy lettuce and cabbage leaves.

Include an array of garnishes like lime wedges, pickled onion, sliced jalapeno, scallion and radish, chopped cilantro, sour cream and crumbled Mexican cheese, plus guacamole, chips and several kinds of hot sauce.

And let the party begin.

Pork Tacos Al Pastor with Peach Salsa Hands on: 30 minutes. Total time: 1 hour plus at least 2 hours or overnight for marinating the pork. Serves 8 Substitute any stone fruit for the peaches in this twist on the traditional pineapple-based Al Pastor taco. 1/4 cup canola oil 1 teaspoon salt 2 cloves garlic 1 teaspoon cumin 2 tablespoons chipotle chili powder 2 teaspoons oregano, preferably Mexican 1/2 cup orange juice 1/4 cup white vinegar 2 peaches or nectarines, peeled, pitted and chopped 1 2-pound pork tenderloin, cubed 4 peaches or nectarines, peeled, pitted and cut into quarters

Combine in the bowl of a food processor canola oil, salt, garlic, cumin, chili powder, oregano, orange juice, white vinegar and the chopped peaches. Puree and transfer to a Ziploc bag, along with the pork, and marinate 2 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to broil.

Remove the pork from the marinade and place on a baking sheet along with the 4 quartered peaches. Broil for 5 minutes, turning once. Remove from oven and keep warm until ready to serve.

Peach Salsa

4 broiled peaches (See Pork Tacos Al Pastor recipe) roughly chopped 1 red onion, finely diced 1 jalapeno, seeded and finely minced 1/4 cup chopped cilantro Juice of 1 lime

Combine in a medium bowl chopped peaches, red onion, jalapeno, cilantro and lime juice.

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