There's A Fungus Among Us!

Sometime, in the past 10 years, I learned of huitlacoche. It is a Nuhatl word for corn smut. Sounds appealing, am I right?

But there are many foods that sound horrible or frightening or just plain weird, and we eat them without a fuss. People eat Jell-O, for Pete’s sake!

There I was, several Sundays ago, at the farmers market, and I had pretty much finished my shopping when I spied shucked corn with a gray fungus growing from its kernels at Arevalos Farm's stall. Could it be?

I ask that only because, here in the states, it is generally unavailable fresh. Even famed Mexican cookbook author Rick Bayless calls for canned huitlacoche in his recipes

Huitlacoche grows only on organic corn, more specifically corn that is not sprayed with fungicide. The farmer selling it said one of his workers had been tossing it, not knowing what it was!

I bought enough ears for about a cup’s worth of huitlacoche and then walked the market looking for friends who would appreciate such a rare find. This was something that needed to be shared.

It became obvious to me that a bit more shopping was in order. I picked up a few additional ingredients to make Huitlacoche Tacos: corn tortillas, a couple of ears of corn, a poblano chile, and a small onion.

That is what I love about shopping at the farmers market. You never know what you will find and it is a good lesson not to plan too many meals before going! After all, you might get there to find an unappealing, strange-looking fungus growing on some corn...

~ David

Huitlacoche Tacos

1 poblano chile
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small white onion, sliced
1/2 teaspoon dried epazote
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 cup huitlacoche, sliced *
2 ears corn, kernels removed
1/4 cup chicken broth
6 6-inch corn tortillas
Cotijo cheese or chèvre, for garnish
Lime wedges
     * use canned huitlacoche (available in Mexican grocery stores) or substitute
        oyster mushrooms if you are unable to get huitlacoche.

Roast the poblano chile, on a gas grill or under the broiler, until blackened on all sides. Place charred chile in a paper bag and let sit for 10 minutes. Remove the chile from the bag and peel off the charred skin. Cut the chile in half lengthwise and scrape out all the seeds and ribs. Slice chile into 1/4-inch strips, and then cut the strips into 1-inch pieces. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet. Add the sliced onion and epazote; cook until softened and beginning to brown. Add the tomato paste and stir to combine with the onions. Add the poblano strips, huitlacoche, and corn kernels. Sauté for 5-10 minutes, adding broth a little at a time, until flavors have melded and huitlacoche is browned.

Heat six 6-inch corn tortillas on a comal or griddle. Divide the huitlacoche mixture among the tortillas and top with cheese. Serve with wedges of lime.

Makes 6 soft tacos.

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