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Over the summer we hosted our second annual Taco & Margarita Cook-Off. Last summer’s Taco & Margarita Cook-Off was a huge hit, and one that everyone was eager to see change from a one-and-done theme to an annual celebration. We easily had twice as many people at this cook off and way more taco entries.
The only downside to this year’s summertime cook-off is that the weather did not cooperate. The thunderstorms were predicted days in advance, so I had plenty of time to worry. Instead of tacos and margaritas poolside, our 20+ guests were all huddled in our tiny kitchen and living room while it poured outside. Though this did not create the best conditions for photography, the amazing thing as far as the gathering and the eating is that no one seemed to mind. The taco creations, dips, chips, salsas, and tortillas overflowed all of our counters as well as the and table and stovetop. The drinks were sheltered on our deck under the awning, traditional Mexican music streamed from the radio, and people were eager to dig in.
One change with this cook-off was we decided to make it non-competitive… as exemplified by those friendly peace-and-love faces above! So yes: technically this was not a cook-off at all. We kept the name though because we all love it! My husband and I hoped to make this gathering a chance for everyone to sample and enjoy as many entries as they could without worrying about tracking dishes or tallying votes. Skipping that step definitely gave us more time to eat, and to focus our attention on eating and more eating!
This taco cook-off was especially especial because my husband created a taco entry! Our family had just returned from our trip to Old San Juan, Puerto Rico where we had incredible tacos, and one of the tacos my husband really enjoyed at La Güerita Taqueria was filled with chorizo.
It inspired my husband to pick up chorizo and potatoes to create his first ever entry. The recipe he used is from Splendid Table, and the tacos were filled with cubed, cooked potato and spicy, diced chorizo cooked with onions and chilies. They were delicious. The dish was one of the most popular ones we had, and brought back memories for our family of our table in Puerto Rico.
I opted for a quick approach for my taco entry, and made a filling using a favorite dinnertime recipe I found on Pinterest for Mississippi Roast in the crock pot.
Once the meat was cooked in the crock, I shredded it, crisped it up under the broiler, and then served it in grilled corn tortillas with pepperoncini and a homemade crema sauce.
Other taco entries included “Hair Of The Dog” Chicken Tinga from Beth, complete with this awesome illustration! She began with the recipe from SeriousEats.com and then made the filling her own with generous dashes of honey, molasses, hot sauce, and tequila. She added homemade pickled onions and lime wedges to garnish the Tinga.
Paul and Sam brought “9 Year-Old Tacos”. The tacos were not nine years old, but their creator Sam is! His tacos included seasoned beef and homemade salsa.
Chris made two kinds of seasoned steak for his tacos: Southwest and Taco, and included cilantro, lime, and chunks of avocado to complete his tacos.
He also made a big batch of my favorite sauce, “The Bad Hombre” Carrot Habanero Hot Sauce, a recipe from the Vermont Farm Table Cookbook by Travey Medeiros.
Rob made a Tacos Al Pastor recipe that we loved, as it was one of our favorite taco fillings from our Puerto Rico trip.
He cunningly teased us with this Instagram photo days before the cook-off! There was also a pulled pork taco filling from Audrey and Dan, which included homemade flour tortillas, cabbage, feta cheese, and radishes.
There were several fresh dips on hand including salsas and guacamoles, and Hillary brought us the coveted copycat Chuy’s Creamy Jalapeño Dip from ThatSquarePlate.com. We fell in love with this dip at the first Taco Cook-Off. To round out the feast, Eli and Kari brought a decadent sweet taco dish: Sopapilla Dessert Tacos, which is a recipe from Pillsbury.com.
My daughter’s boyfriend scored major points with me by making one of my own margarita recipes from my blog, the Lemon Drop Margarita! He crafted this cocktail perfectly, and it was a refreshing margarita indeed. Andrew and Lisa brought us the Rosacker Margarita. This drink was three parts silver tequila, two parts lime juice (equal split between fresh and bottled), and one part Triple Sec.
There were also plenty of Mexican beers on hand. (I accidentally created a delightful drink that was not a margarita, but was still quite tasty: a splash of tequila plus agave syrup, then topped with a can of Blueberry Lemonade seltzer from Polar!)
To our delight the rain actually tapered off a few hours into our gathering, and the sun finally shined on our cook-off.
Having feasted and thoroughly stuffed ourselves, it felt wonderful to spread out into the yard, jump into the pool or settle into a lawn chair with a cool drink.
This year’s Taco & Margarita Cook-Off really set the bar high not only for future taco competitions but for all cook-offs, in terms of number of entries and creativity of dishes! (And I am definitely expecting my husband to continue contributing tasty entries!)
Our next cook-off is the highly anticipated Bacon Cook-Off, which is happening soon. Stay tuned to hear more about this smoky and meaty meet-up!