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How to throw the perfect taco party

It starts with short ribs, and ends with freshly squeezed lime

"It's my favorite taco filling on our menu," says food writer turned restaurateur Sara Deseran of the guajillo-braised short ribs she and her husband, Joe Hargrave, serve at Tacolicious, their minichain of San Francisco restaurants.

"And it's the ultimate party centerpiece," Deseran says. Lucky for us, she's shared the recipe from her cookbook, Tacolicious ($22).

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Deseran and Hargrave opened their first Tacolicious, a stand at the Ferry Building farmers' market, in 2008. Somewhere between running that stand and opening their first sit-down location in 2009, the couple got married. These days, there are four locations of Tacolicious in the Bay Area, with more likely on the way. You could say it's a story of love and tortillas.

But back to those short ribs.

"They've got this juicy, drippy quality that melds with the tortillas," Deseran says. "And short ribs have more flavor than other cuts of beef."

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The meat is slow-cooked for hours with two types of chiles (fresh guajillos and dried chipotles), a flavorful dark beer like Negra Modelo, garlic and onion, plus cumin and Mexican oregano. When the meat is tender and a little soupy, it's ready to pile on corn tortillas.

Making the filling into the star of your next taquiza, or taco party, isn't too hard. You can make it a few days in advance. Braise some beans a couple of days ahead, too. Pickle an onion. Make a salsa or two for a variety of textures. Deseran says, "In Mexico, salsa isn't there for dipping chips. It's used as a condiment to spice things up — everything from tacos to grilled meats and fish."

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The day of your dinner, whip up some guacamole. Warm some good corn tortillas and put out the trifecta of taco garnishes — small bowls of chopped onions, lime wedges, and freshly plucked cilantro leaves. "Those three kind of make the tacos. You really need them, especially the chopped onions, which add sweetness."

Now you're ready to guac and roll.

Tasting Table is a culinary lifestyle brand that obsesses over what to eat and drink so you don't have to. It's like having a foodie best friend to distill the culinary world into must-do, must-eat, and must-know recommendations, on everything from the best Thai in the Village to the top tequila pours in Outer Mission. Hungry yet?

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