Since this is a pot luck, I'm asking my friends to bring a dish to share:
Here are the possibilities for them to bring. This will help me out a ton.
How To Plan It Out
The trick to all this is planning. It makes everything go easier. First you make a guest list. Then a menu. With the menu, I have to figure out when things need to be made, when things need to be marinaded, chopped, grated, and chilled etc.
I try and make as many dishes as possible ahead of time, meaning the day before or two days before so I don't go crazy.
There are some food items that have to be made the day of the party. These dishes include, spanish rice (I love it hot off the stove), guacamole (has to be made fresh the day of), grilling the skirt steak, although I will marinate it the day before and the pork chalupa and shrimp.
I will probably also make the chile relleno casserole the day of also. I've decided to cook the beans either Friday or Saturday as the quality is just as good.
So I work out the whole menu, meaning I write it down on a piece of paper and make a schedule. I include everything because if you don't, you are going to forget a condiment or two. It's bound to happen!
This list keeps you organized and is also a shopping list too, which is a big help.
More Things To Think About
You also need to think about how you want to serve the food.
Do I put the food inside or out? In my case, I am serving it buffet style in my kitchen.
What serving dishes will I use? I like to use chafing dishes when appropriate.
I will put the refried beans in one and maybe the rice. You need to be aware that chafing dishes need to be watched closely so you don't over cook your food or dry it out.
One way to help with this is to only use one heat source (sterno type fuel) or turn it off part way through. Some larger chafing dishes have two sterno fuels per unit.
Chafing dishes are a great way to keep hot things hot.
Will you use real plates or paper plates? I'm using paper plates for easy clean up.
The Biggest Challenge
One of the biggest challenges many people have is how to get all the food ready and served at the same time.
This can be a real challenge. What I usually do is just figure out how long each thing takes to cook.
So in my case, I look at all the food to be served and prep up everything I can, ahead of time and then store it in the refrigerator, ice chest, or on a side table.
For example I will make the beans a day ahead and then reheat them on Sunday. I will make the rice (the actually cooking it) 1 hour before the designated eating time. I will prep the onion, bell pepper, measure out the rice and spices the day before.
I will marinate the skirt steak the day before and have my husband cook it 1/2 hour before eating time. I want it served hot.
I will probably write out an hour by hour schedule of what I need to be doing to keep me on track.
The more you practice (meaning have more parties!) the better you will get at doing this.
One of the best things to do is ask others for help. Here is an example that I am going to do.
I will ask someone to help me out by being the designated margarita maker. I will give them the recipe, written on a piece of paper and explain what I want them to do and how to do it and let them at it.
Now I am free to take care of the food.
Let's not forget, I asked everyone to bring a dish. This is a big help.
I have my husband bbqing the skirt steak and the margarita shrimp.
I may even solicite the help of one of my friends to come a half hour early to help set up odds and ends.
There are many things to get done. Another I haven't mentioned yet is decorating. I plan to do that the night before. Obviously I will be using Cinco de Mayo decorations.
I have a 10 ft banner that needs to be hung as well a few centerpieces to be placed on tables. I have a few other things to put out like Mexican table runners and a couple of small pinatas.
If I Have Time
I like to play games when I have people over so I am considering setting up a cornhole type game that we have. I would have a tournament and offer a prize to the winner. A bottle of wine and a few chocolates would fit the bill as the prize.
I am also considering having the ladies make Mexican flowers made from different colored pieces of tissue paper secured with colored pipe cleaners. I am planning to make a video on how to do this in the near future. The flowers look so festive.
Keep Most Things Self Serve
When ever I can I like to make as many items or things as self serve as possible. In other words I put drinks out in a cooler so guests can help themselves. Same with wine.
I place a big water dispenser with fruit in it out so they can serve themselves water.
My guests will be making their own tacos with the food on platters and the tortillas in my favorite tortilla warmers so they can put their own tacos together.
I can't begin to tell you how awesome these tortilla warmers are. I absolutely love them. They keep a whole stack of tortillas warm for a good 30 to 45 minutes.
This is the tortilla warmer I'm talking about. Clicking the picture will take you to it if you want to buy one.