Why tacos should be on your Fourth of July menu

From carne asada to picadillo, these dishes fit easily with your usual festive barbecue fare.

By Kristen Cabrera & Adam RegaladoJune 27, 2024 12:45 pm,

As the Fourth of July approaches, the patriotic decor is coming out and backyards are getting cleaned up for picnics, gatherings, and barbecues of all kinds.

But it’s not a holiday just to think about hot dogs and hamburgers. Not everyone is going the traditional food route this year. One popular item that may not cross your mind when it comes to this holiday is tacos.

Not the case, of course, for Mando Rayo – taco journalist and host of the Tacos of Texas podcast. Mando joined the Standard to talk about serving up tacos for your Fourth fare. Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.

This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:

Make the case for the taco as the food of American patriotism.

I mean, the thing is, tacos were in these lands before Texas was Texas, before we had hot dogs, to be honest. People were making things out of tortillas.

So just being so close to the border, but also many generations of Mexicans and Latinos being here… I mean, people are cooking out and they’re cooking some tacos. They’re doing carne asada, they’re doing brisket, they’re doing, you know, anything that brings a family together.

So let me ask this, though. You go to the taqueria; hot dogs and eggs are typically on the menu. Does the hot dog have a place in a taco at an afternoon or evening barbecue?

Oh, yeah. I mean, the thing is, I would say as you’re getting ready for a good carne asada, maybe you have a nice ribeye or something like that. You need something to hold you over, and why not a hot dog?

And you have all the kids running around and you want them away from the fire, so just throw them one of those hot dogs, and they’ll be good to go.

So what you’re saying is the hot dog is best used as a placeholder?

Yeah. That’s right. And as a kid deterrent. How about that?

I like that. You mentioned a few of the types of tacos that folks might be cooking up, but let’s get a little bit more into it. What may be on the menu at barbecues across Texas?

Yeah. Well, what we call “barbecues,” Mexicanos call it a “carne asada,” right? That’s kind of like this idea of a family gathering where everybody brings different things. Tortillas are being made, rice, beans, picos and salsas.

But the main thing is, obviously, the meat – the beef, whether it’s a nice cut of ribeye, a steak or even like the thin bistec that you can cook for your whole family. And so those are the kind of things that’s kind of a great starting point, definitely, if you’re looking to cook up something different.

I mean, we’re in Texas. Somebody should be making a brisket. So, I mean, if you bring flour tortillas and maybe some pico or salsa, you’re golden.

I’m curious, with hamburgers and hot dogs… that stuff is quick. You pop it out of the package, you put it on the grill. Carne asada… Do we need a little bit more prep time? Do people need to be thinking ahead for a marinade?

Well, definitely. When you think about, like, fajitas, a marinade is always good. You know, maybe 6 hours ahead or even the day before.

It’s always a good excuse to gather around the fire pit. You always have, like, the one person that’s the cook, that’s the griller, and everybody else just watches. Or maybe you could do some tacos dorados – it’s kind of like that extension of the crispy taco, but you fry up your own tortillas.

Maybe do something simple, like a picadillo – ground beef with spices and potatoes. That could be a perfect appetizer, to be honest – those little small fried tacos – as you get ready for your big full entree of other meat. But I’m talking about sausage, chorizo, carne asada. Then you have your grilled veggies.

And what salsas are you putting on this?

Well, you know, since you’re out in the grill, why not make a good salsa quemada, right? A burnt salsa where you can roast the chilies, roast peppers – whether they’re jalapeños, serranos, onions, tomatoes… Roast them right there on the fire and then blend them all together. Add a little bit of salt, add a little bit of lime, and man, those are perfect for some good barbecue tacos for sure.

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