An abundance of freshly picked sweet corn always reminds me of several opportunities I have had to indulge in savoring one on Mexico’s most unusual delicacies, huitlacoche.
Huitlacoche is the Aztec name for a fungus that grows on maturing corn during the wet season in central Mexico and parts of north America.
Anyone who has wandered into a corn filed in mid summer would more than likely encounter a spongy foamy fungus in various shades of gray on some ears of corn. This is called corn smut in the US and huitlachoche in Mexico. Corn smut is not a particularly enticing descriptive, but putting that aside, think of huitlacoche as Mexico’s truffle with a unique delicate earthy mushroom like flavor with an umami note. Huitlacoche has been prized in indigenous cultures in the American southwest and Latin America from ce pre-columbian times.
Fresh huitlacoche may be available when in season in some select Latin American markets. It is also available in jars and cans from various sources online, though the flavor is altered in processing and really not worth purchasing.
With that in mind I came up with a huilacoche alternative years ago that has satisfied my own cravings for those sublime flavors savored while in Mexico. Rest assured, all the ingredients required for my recipe are readily available in your local supermarket.
Drawing from recollections, my favorite huitlacoche dish would have to be a grilled corn omlette filled with huitlacoche set atop a mild fresh milk cheese and garnished with a few fresh cilantro sprigs and a picante salsa verde. It was perfection!
My huitlaoche alternative
Makes enough for 3 servings
A little multi tasking before you get started requires grilling or broiling the mushrooms and corn before you proceeding with the recipe.
- 2 tablespoon sunflower oil, divided
- 4 ears fresh sweet corn, husk and silk removed
- 2 largish portobello mushrooms / 6 oz/ 70 g
- 1 plump garlic clove, peeled and finely grated
- 6 oz/ 70 g baby spinach leaves, well rinsed
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon tamari soy sauce
- ½ teaspoon fish sauce
- ¼ teaspoon epazote or oregano
- 1 tablespoon heavy cream (optional)
Fire up grill grill or preheat your oven broiler. Brush the portobello mushrooms and corn lightly with oil. Place on the grill or on a baking tray and grill or broil all, turning both the mushrooms and the corn until nicely browned. The mushrooms will require less cooking time so keep an eye on them. Remove them when they have softened and are giving up their moisture and set aside to cool.
Continue grilling or broiling the corn until the kernels are well browned on all sides. Remove and set them aside to cool. Save any pan juices if you have used the broiler to use later.
When the mushrooms are cool slice and dice them and place then in a non-reactive bowl. Add any reserved pan juices and cover.
When th corn is cool slice the kernels off the cobs, place them in a mixing bowl and set aside until you ready to make the omelettes.
To finish the huitlache mixture add the remaining oil to a skillet set over medium low heat and add the garlic. Saute 30 seconds and add the spinach and saute until wilted. Add the mushrooms and continue sauteing until the spinach is very soft. Add the salt, tamari, fish sauce, epazote or oregano, and the cream if using. Lower the heat and continue to saute until all the ingredients are very soft, and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and keep the mixture warm while you make the omlettes.
Grilled Corn omlettes
For each omlette:
- 3 organic eggs
- pinch of salt
- a splash of water
- 1 teaspoon salted butter
- 1/3 cup grilled corn kernels
- 4 thinly sliced fresh mozzarella
- salsa verde (see recipe here)
- sprigs of fresh cilantro
- Crack the eggs in a bow and add salt and a splash of water and whisk vigorously until foamy.
Place a large non stick skillet, or my preference, a 10 inch nonstick crepe pan, over medium low heat. Add the butter to the pan and swirl to distribute evenly. Add the corn and saute for a minute or two and the spread the corn evenly over the surface. Pour the egg mixture evenly over the surface and tilt the pan so the egg mixture covers the entire surface of the pan. As the eggs begin to cook and firm up tilt the pan so any remaining liquid mixture fills in any gaps.
Place slices of fresh mozzarella over the surface and then spread warm huitlacoche mixture across the center of the omlette. Once the omlette is firm, using a silicone spatula, gently nudge the omlette away from the sides of the pan and fold it away from you over the huitlacoche filling. You can then nudge the omlette over the remaining exposed omlettete and slide the omlette onto a plate for serving.
Garnish with sprigs of cilantro and salsa verde to one side and serve.