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An Ugly Duckling that is Really Delicious: Huitlacoche

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Huitlacoche photo 

Corn smut, Mexican Truffles, Fungus, blight…Call it what you will, huitlacoche is just plain delicious.

The fungus spores infect the corn plant much the same way a mushroom spore infects wood. Considered a pest by many farmers, hutilacoche can decrease the yield of crops and can lower the value of corn. In Mexico and by many chefs, huitlacoche is considered a delicacy and highly prized. This was the case this week when I went to my favorite market stall and found a special basket of infected corn with fungus lovers huddled around it, all trying to find the most “infected” corn. I scooped up the precious ears and carried it back to my kitchen at Spertus.

My staff and I scraped off the fungus and corn kernels and a short while later feasted. The flavor of huitlacoche is sweet, woodsy and faintly mushroomy. Tasty! When you visit your favorite farmer’s market or corn stand ask for corn smut. If you can get past its ugly appearance you will be rewarded with an exotic wild mushroom flavor.

Huevos Rancheros con Huitlacoche  

Serves 6

1 cup huitlacoche (from about 6 ears of corn), scraped, rinsed and roughly chopped
1 medium red onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 cups of corn kernels
1 cup Spicy Green Mole*
12 eggs
½ cup shredded cheese-Optional (I prefer white cheddar)
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 325

1. Place a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Lightly coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil. Add the huitlacoche, onion and garlic. Sauté until the onion is lightly browned, (about 5 minutes). Add the corn kernels and the mole. Reduce the heat to medium low.

2. Crack the eggs into the sauce. Sprinkle cheese on top and place the sauté pan in the oven. Cook the huevos rancheros until the eggs are set but the yolks are still liquid.
Serve with warm tortillas and additional cheese.

*Spicy Green Mole  

3 pounds tomatillos, about 8 medium tomatillos, husked and rinsed
1 small red onion cut in half
1 Serrano pepper, stem removed
3 cloves of garlic, do not remove from the skin
1/3 cup shelled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)*
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 avocados, pitted
Juice of 2 limes
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon hot sauce (optional)

1. Place the tomatillos, onion halves, Serrano pepper and garlic in a medium sauté pan. Heat the ingredients over high heat until the vegetables start to toast and blacken. Turn the vegetables to toast on all sides. Remove the vegetables as they turn black. Transfer the toasted vegetables to a blender or food processor.

2. Toast the pumpkin seeds in the same pan over medium high heat. The seeds will start to pop. Continue toasting until the seeds are light golden brown (about 2 minutes). Transfer the seeds to the blender.

3. Add the remaining ingredients to the blender and process until creamy and fairly smooth. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

*Pepitas can be found in Latin markets and many grocery stores.

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