10.12.2019

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.

32 comments:

  1. I tried huitlacoche at a street food eatery when we stayed on the outskirts of Cancún, in an area called Alfredo V. Bonfil. It was prepared quesadilla-style, and really delicious! I'm sure if I search long enough I could find canned huitlacoche somewhere in Sydney, maybe even some of theat delicious Cotija cheese!

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    1. I am glad you got to have it in México, John! I really wonder how good the canned version is...

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  2. Saved by the bell! Oyster mushrooms readily available and another Mexican recipe just may be tried by this novice. Shall leave it to John to do research in Sydney-town :) ! Wonderful food story tho' . . . hmm: your photo does not much appeal . . . Jell-o neither !

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    1. I hope it is the photo of the huitlacoche that didn't appeal... I thought the tacos looked pretty good! :)

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  3. Though I've never bought it before I've seen it a few times at the Hollywood Farmers Market where it's called Mexican Truffles. My most eye opening experience with the stuff was in ravioli in a restaurant in Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico. Until then I was sort like, "yeah, so what" about the stuff. That ravioli changed my mind and I'm sure I'd line up for these tacos. GREG

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    1. Once you have eaten them, you understand why they call them Mexican Truffles.

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  4. crikey that looks ...interesting. not sure i like the taste and texture of oyster mushrooms, and i guess that's what it's like. i wonder if we can even buy such things here in brisbane - maybe online. cheers sherry

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    1. The texture is very soft and mushroom-like, Sherry - hard to describe!

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  5. Absolutely understand you... quite often, I wonder around looking for someone to share the excitement about treasures to be found that easily, suddenly, so healthy, so unusual but people look at me like I'm loosing it .... it's hard to cope with us,genius,creative people, right ? LOL

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    1. Thank you for lumping me with the "genius, creative" types like you, Davorka! :)

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  6. Ok huitlacoche does not look appealing, but when I read about Mexican "truffles" I begin to get interested! Your recipe sounds delicious.

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    1. If you stop and think about all the unappealing foods we eat, this is just one in a long line. Once I tasted them, it was easy to get past the look!

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  7. I agree with a few others- if you call it 'Mexican Truffles', I'm ready to jump in!I've never heard of huitlacoche before, but I'm up for this adventurous treat!

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    1. Well, Fran, let's just call the Mexican truffles! :)

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  8. Didn't know about huitlacoche, and I would have thought corn smut was something naughty that stalks of corn read (if they could read, of course). Guess I was wrong. :-) This looks really interesting and fun -- thanks.

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    1. That is the best description of corn smut I have read, John. Thank you for a good laugh!

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  9. Dear David, what a brilliant find! And what a very interesting recipe! I agree with you on the 'not' planning one's trip to the farmer's market too much - you never know what treasure(s) you might stumble upon!
    Liebe Grüße,
    Andrea

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    1. Yes, Andrea, it is always so much fun to be surprised at the market.

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  10. Sounds like quite the find at the market, David! I've never heard of huitlacoche, but it sure sounds prettier than corn smut! Looking at the cob of corn, I have to wonder who was the first person to ever try eating it! Thank you for introducing me to something new! I'm so intrigued, I'll have to try it if I find it.

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    1. So funny, Kelly - I think that about a lot of foods... like lobster, cactus, and any number of animal body parts. :)

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  11. David, call me dull--and maybe it's because I have a miserable cold right now--but I'm not feeling quite adventurous enough today for huitlacoche. Another day, though, I'd probably say, Hey it's a vegetable, what's not to love. Your recipe sounds delicious!

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    1. The way I look at it is that it is just another mushroom. We see shiitakes growing on dank logs in the forest so why not on corn? Maybe when you feel better (which I hope is soon) you will crave these, Jean!

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  12. This is totally new to me. I've never heard of this and I'm intrigued and excited to know about it. I will for sure be seeking it out at my Farmers Market this weekend! Fascinating. Since it's considered a delicacy by those who know about it, I'm wondering . . . is it expensive? Guess I will see if they have it. :-) ~Valentina

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    1. Hi Valentina - yes, it was a little pricey - but not as much as French or Italian truffles! :) I would be curious ot know if you see it anywhere...

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  13. Never tried this at home as the main ingredient is impossible to find around here in stores, but one of our local Mexican restaurants (the only decent one imho) run by Jose Andres, the celebrity chef, serves these tacos. They are indeed really yummy!

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    1. I didn't get to eat at his Mexican restaurant last time I was in DC - but my boss did and said it as fantastic. Glad ot know he is offering huitlacoche!

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  14. Wow, I'm surrounded by corn fields in our rural, little town, but I've never heard of corn smut/huitlacoche! I'm going to ask around. The veggie tacos look absolutly delicious, David. I will try this, but with the mushrooms.

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    1. Well, Marcelle, if they use any pesticides at all, the huitlacoche won't grow... maybe if you have an organic farmer, they might get some, but chances are they will curse the stuff for ruining their crops! But they should just sell it for a lot of $$ at the farmers market!

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  15. I have never heard of this before David. Now I'm going to need to ask my (organic) farmer friends. Your tacos look delicious.

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    1. Inger - I will be so curious to know if huitlacoche grows on norther corn. I am wondering if it is a warm weather fungus... Let me know!

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  16. I've heard of this, but didn't know what it was. Thanks for the lesson, David. I bet these were delicious; I was right about your farmer's market being awesome! Lucky you!

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    1. I think with any farmers market, Christina, we need to dig deep and find out favorite places.

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