Brought to you by Archer Farms only at Target.
Spring has sprung. In a span of a week, our lawn turned green and the forest unfurled into a glimmering emerald panorama. All at once it seems highly appropriate to be eating outdoors, and besides, how can we stay away with the chorus of the bullfrogs and the quacking of the mallards calling us to come and salute spring?
I decided rather last minute to welcome friends over for a meal last weekend. They were in town on short notice and we couldn’t pass up an opportunity to see them – and meet their adorable new baby girl.
Everyone in the family pitched in to prepare for our first backyard gathering of the season. The boys power-washed the deck chairs and Danny primed the grill, while I prepped for a simple taco feast.
The day turned out to be gloriously warm; the children ran barefoot and our friends toured the garden and the chicken coop before we ate. And boy, did we eat.
As the sun slanted through the green tinged weeping willow, I set out a selection of Archer Farms tortilla chips and their pungent Roasted Tomato and Chipotle Salsa, and poured iced watermelon agua fresca into glasses garnished with fresh mint.
We gathered around the food and caught up on happy news like new babies, as well as somberly recounted the Boston Marathon bombings, as our friends are from Boston. It was a good reminder to count our blessings and appreciate our health and safety, as well as our sunny Saturday get-together.
To me, the best moments with family and friends are when we are gathered, casually, around the table and sharing a meal together. Sure on this particular occasion the kids spilled their juice, the babies wailed, and more than one taco hit the deck – literally – but no Skype chats or instant messaging can replace the fellowship we shared.
As parents, we share a certain empathy for each other in our various plights. It helps enormously to compare notes (ideally over guacamole, chips and cold beer) and sigh in relief to know that others are losing sleep with a teething baby and coping with picky eaters as well.
So we laughed, and lamented, together.
ALL photos by Tim Chin
Planning a simple taco gathering with friends: the make, the buy, and the do-ahead.
Although it seems like a lot of components, a build-your-own taco party is an easy way to entertain. For starters, have your guests bring the beverages; just remember to make and stock plenty of ice.
- Tortilla chips. A must for pre-dinner munching, we enjoy white, blue or yellow corn varieties, ideally organic.
- Salsa. Until tomatoes and peppers are fresh, local and in season, I’m purchasing our salsa. Target carries a wide selection of Archer Farms salsas, many of them organic.
- Corn or Flour soft tortillas.
- Sour cream. My boy’s favorite garnish.
- Carnitas. Below I’ve included a super simple recipe for Carnitas, a pork shoulder braised in orange juice with some spices that is shredded for the taco filling. It’s about 30 times better than boring roast chicken and comes together quickly. You can make this!
- Guacamole. It has to be homemade. Gaby has at least a dozen variations.
- Toppings. Prepare your fresh toppings such as lettuce, diced onion and chopped tomatoes on the same day as you are entertaining.
If you have at least a day’s notice before the taco-scarfing crew descends on your backyard, you can get some of the prep squared away. You can grate the cheese and cook a batch of beans. I stick with Diana’s flavorful Frijoles Rancheros, which tend to be even better on the second day.
Ask a friend to warm the soft tortillas on the grill while you warm the braised pork and the beans. Enlist the help of any children running through the kitchen to help you set out the toppings on the picnic table. And definitely check if another pitcher of margaritas is needed before you sit down.
Then relax and enjoy. At least, until things get out of hand at the kiddie table.
|Carnitas: Braised Pork with Cumin and Orange Juice||
- 4 lbs pork shoulder
- 1 medium onion, peeled
- 1 1/4 cups fresh orange juice
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
- 1/4 cup Archer Farms salsa
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons salt
- Trim the excess fat off of the pork and cut it into 2-inch pieces. Don’t worry if they are not even or look messy. Place them in a large, heavy skillet.
- Cut the onion into 8 wedges and add to pork. Add orange juice, lime juice, salsa, garlic, cumin, and salt to the skillet and carefully stir to combine.
- Add enough water to cover the pork and place the skillet over medium-high heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, cover and reduce the heat until the liquid is just simmering. Cook for 2 hours.
- Remove the lid and bring the liquid up to a slow boil. Cook until almost all of the liquid has evaporated or reduced. The pork will be tender and fall apart easily.
- Shred the pork with a fork, toss with remaining skillet juices and serve hot.
Looking for more simple summer entertaining ideas? I’ve curated a Pinterest board that is all about easy (and beautiful) summer gatherings from the family backyard barbecue to casual taco night with friends.
What’s stopping you from entertaining more often? Discuss in the comments and let’s float some good ideas around.