You can typically separate favorite foods into two categories: stuff we love to make at home and stuff we’d rather order in restaurants. The taco is one of the rare dishes that fits into both categories, because a) it’s consistently delicious, b) it provides infinite variety and can be “upscaled” by creative chefs and c) it’s simple to make and hard to mess up. Crispy shells straight out of the box, ground beef seasoned beyond recognition, iceberg lettuce and shredded yellow cheese—this meal is prepared at millions of homes across the country every night, as you-know-what as apple pie and symbolic of the dominant influence of Mexican food and Latin culture on our society.
If you’re crafting gringo tacos in your kitchen, make them the best they can be. Sub in ground chicken or turkey, because it’s healthier and you’re going to overseason it anyway. Skip that packet of Lawry’s taco dust and try a Frontera Skillet Sauce instead—I like the red chile and cumin option—because, hey, chef Rick Bayless is the classic white guy making Mexican food. And before you start load-in, spread a thin layer of sour cream inside half the shell, a simple trick my half-Mexican wife taught me that ensures creamy gringo pleasure in every bite instead of just a few dollops on top.
Of course, you could go a little bit more authentic with your home taco-making. How? Hit your local Cardenas Market (cardenasmarkets.com), where corn and flour tortillas are made fresh daily, delicious carnitas, birria-style beef and grilled chicken await in the deli area and fresh salsas and condiments are pre-packaged for convenience. It’s a one-stop taco party, crunchy shells not required.