There are a lot of ingredients I didn’t like when I was growing up. I mentioned on this post that pumpkin flowers was one of them. But there was one that made me cringe just thinking about it, huitlacoche or corn smut. But when I grew up and started experimenting with food and new flavors I gave them a second chance and now they are among my favorite ingredients to cook with.
I’ve posted a recipe with this delicate ingredient before when I found a can of it at a Mexican store in Columbus. But having the real thing is way better, there’s no comparison with the canned stuff. Last Saturday when I was visiting my parents I went to the mercadito (little market. However, it stopped being little a long time ago to become a 3/4 mile street and farmer’s market) that comes to the neighborhood every week. Among the ingredients I bought for the following day’s lunch was a fresh batch of huitlacoche:
But what is that, you might be wondering. Huitlacoche is the corn kernels of a diseased corn ear infected by a fungus. The word huitlacoche (also spelled as cuitlacoche sometimes) comes from Nahuatl, the language spoke by the Aztecs and other civilizations of central Mexico. There’s some debate about what the correct meaning of the word is, but some experts say it means excrement of the gods. Appetizing, isn’t it?
It is considered a delicacy in Mexico and sells for considerably higher prices than regular corn. However, in the US and Europe markets it hasn’t been as accepted even though high-profile chefs and restaurants have tried to create a buzz around this ingredient. It has even been called the Mexican truffle.
Maybe in the future it will be more popular, but for now I can share with you some delicious ways to eat it. The most common one in Mexico is probably in quesadillas. The huitlacoche has to be prepared first and then used as a stuffing in tortillas with cheese. We served them as a side dish for Sunday’s lunch that I will be posting soon.
- •2 TBSP olive oil
- •1 lb fresh huitlacoche or 2 8-oz cans
- •1/2 medium onion, chopped
- •2 garlic cloves, minced
- •1 or 2 jalapeno peppers, finely chopped
- •2 tsp dry epazote or 1 tbsp fresh one, chopped
- •salt and pepper to taste
- •1/4 pound Oaxaca cheese or any other melting cheese
- •12 corn tortillas
- Sautee onion in olive oil on a large frying pan. When the onion becomes translucent add the garlic and sautee for a couple of minutes.
- Add huitlacoche, pepper and epazote and cook for about 5 to 7 minutes stirring constantly. This will prevent the huitlacoche from oozing a lot of liquid and becoming slimy.
- Season to taste and when it becomes tender turn heat off and set apart.
- In a griddle, comal or large pan, make the quesadillas by warming up the tortillas a little bit then stuffing them with cheese slices and some of the cooked huitlacoche and folding them in half.
- Serve with avocado or fresh salsa and enjoy!
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