A Make-Ahead, Mexican-Inspired Feast Starring Grilled Salsa, Pernil, and More

Make Ahead

A Make-Ahead, Mexican-Inspired Feast Starring Grilled Salsa, Pernil, and More

August 14, 2017

This summer, we're partnering with Jet.com to share recipes that will help you hone nearly every skill in the book. (And Jet will have you covered with all the fresh and pantry goods you will need. Seriously, they have everything. Use the code Food52 at checkout for 20% off your first 2 orders of $35 or more. Maximum discount $30.*) These past couple months, we've shared tips to arm you for easily prep weeknight-friendly meals and picnic (gluten-free!) all summer long—and there's more to come. On the docket today: our favorites for a make-ahead salsa meal!

'Make-ahead' is music to my ears when I'm planning dinners. It's the strategy I employ when I'm hosting Passover (usually 10 to 15 people strong), trying to eat at home for a week straight, or getting people together for grilling out (whether that's with tacos or steaks). While it doesn't always work—I'm inevitably grabbing something pre-made from somewhere when I've forgotten to include its ingredients on a list—it's usually a dream by the time people show up, with just one or two things needing attention during pre-dinner drinks.

Photo by Mark Weinburg

To save you from poking about the Food52 archives, and to put in my own back pocket, I scoured the site for recipes for an outdoor-friendly, Mexican-leaning menu that can be entirely made ahead of time for a weekend party, some fully prepped, and some that may need bells and whistles right before being served.

You can even plan to make enough so that there'll be leftovers for a few days, which is a godsend, whether you have kids who need school lunches or just want to feed yourself. (But finish the boozy punch with the adults over the weekend!)

The Menu

Before anyone shows up, fire up the grill a little early and get going on your vegetables for this salsa. You'll taste the smokiness all the way through, and hopefully you'll be able to squirrel some away ahead of time (to top leftover lunches) because there's no way it's making it through a party without a clean plate at the end.

Refried beans are a classic, but our editor Sarah gives them an update by swapping in white beans and adding some rosemary and lemon to complement the chiles de árbol. You can make them ahead of time all the way up until it's mashing time, or they will reheat just fine as leftovers, too. (Full of lots of good stuff for keeping you, or your family, going through the midday slump.)

One of the simplest summer salads there is: Cucumber, red onion, some salt and acid. If you're making this ahead of time—you are, right?—just reserve the herbs until right before serving. Set it out for everyone to heap onto their plates, and then do as Ali does for the rest of the week:

I like this salad on its own, though it is delicious atop toasts slathered with hummus, too.

A real long-haul of a recipe, you'd be well off to prep this ahead of any big party, preferably on the day-of instead of overnight. But don't despair over the timing, as the prep itself is basically just "put ingredients in a pot and roast." And you will not be disappointed! Neither will your guests! (Note: While pernil is not Mexican—it has Puerto Rican roots—it hangs well with salsas, paletas, and the like. Go truly Mexican with carnitas.)

Roasted. Banana. Paletas. Not much more to be said here, but just that you should make extra to last throughout the week, whether it's for after school snacks, desserts, or midnight nips from the freezer.

Big batch punches are the way to my heart, and this one is simple as it gets. Squeeze your citrus ahead of time and chill it with the pineapple juice, and just dump and stir with tequila when the time is right.

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

I love oysters and unfussy sandwiches.


Anna September 17, 2017
Correct Alex! Carnitas is the pork equivalent for Mexican food. Also, pernil is pork shoulder while carnitas are made from pork butt. As different as center cut pork chops vs shoulder blade pork chops. Just saying.
Alex August 14, 2017