The best, and most memorable, back patio hang sessions seem to come together last minute—maybe you ran into a neighbor, or maybe an afternoon catchup with a pal went long. Now evening is creeping in and you want the good times to continue. Hunger ensues, but you don’t want to halt the feel-good flow by attempting a complex recipe or ordering pizza (again). What should you serve at such a shindig? Our go-to is dry-rubbed carne asada tacos. Simple and fast? Yes. But also tasty as hell and totally sustaining—so you spend less time prepping and more time actually enjoying yourself.
The translation for carne asada is “grilled meat,” and that’s what you get here, its natural flavors amplified by spices like adobo and cumin you can modulate to your liking—no lengthy marinating needed, nor are hours of chopping and prep work. Use a flavorful, thick-grained cut like skirt steak—preferably “outside” skirt steak, which is more tender than the inside cut—and cook it quickly over a hot grill. Pair the meat with fresh-made tortillas, if you can find them, and you’ll find that the dish seams to disappear almost as quickly as you can prepare it.
Weeknight Carne Asada Tacos
Ingredients: 2 tsp cumin 1 tsp oregano 1/2 tsp ground Adobo pepper, more or less to vary the heat salt and pepper to taste tortillas fresh cilantro fresh avocado
Fire up the grill. Throw the spices in a bowl and mix them together. Then fully coat the skirt steak in the mixture by rubbing it in on both sides. (You can do this up to 2 hours beforehand for deeper flavor.)
Lightly coat the steak in olive oil, then grill it for around 3 minutes per side, or until medium-rare. Allow the steak to rest for 5 to 10 minutes, then slice it thinly against the grain. Serve with the grill-warmed tortillas, fresh avocado or a simple guacamole, and fresh cilantro.
And for a drink pairing? Your might conjure up a margarita for a meal like this, but it’s time for a rethink: Why usher in a sugar-rush and a likely hangover? We’ll reach for a Founders Más Agave Hard Seltzer. Since the sweet has been dialed back with all-natural Agave, and natural fruit juice provides the flavor, it’s in a realm of its own.
Great Gear for a (Mild) Backyard Bash
Three items you need to easily elevate your entertaining game.
Most backyard fire pits are great in theory, less so in practice: They tend to be heavy, messy, and can soak your guests clothes in smoke. Not so with the Solo Stove Yukon, which uses a clever design that directs airflow in a way that burns wood hotter and more efficiently. You get all the warmth (both visual and heat) with far less smoke, and fewer charred chunks of wood and ash to clean out in the morning. The new Yukon unit has wide 23-inch mouth, meaning most standard-sized firewood should fit. [$500; solostove.com]
Everybody wants to move movie night outside these days—but too many folks are buying sub-par portable projectors with output that’s too dim for all but the darkest nights. Not so with the Epson EpiqVision Mini EF11, which outputs a bright 1,000 lumens via a 3LCD laser projection system, and features onboard speakers. Plug in something like a Roku Streaming Stick into one of its two HDMI ports and you’re ready to go. [$799, epson.com]
Those vintage-style string lights look great…but they are absolutely everywhere. So how to do you get a warm glow on the patio without them? Answer: the Articture Element. These portable globe lights sit on the ground and cast even lighting that will flatter you and your guests. The Element features an LED bulb and is rechargeable, so you won’t need to run a power cable across the ground. [From $99; articture.com]