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.
Rotisserie chicken soup seems to be getting a lot of buzz these days. It’s a given that those beautifully browned super market rotisserie chickens more often than not fail to live up to expectations, so why not repurpose the chicken for a better outcome. The bones will make a very flavorsome stock for any hearty home made soup that strike your fancy.
The Mexican rotisserie chicken soup recipe that follows is just one of many possibilities you might choose for your rotisserie chick soup. The idea is to be creative and utilize what you have on hand. The objective is to make a hearty soup with all the depth, character, and flavor of a hearty regional chicken soup from any culture that inspires you.
Mexican Rotisserie Chicken Soup
A whole rotisserie chicken, skin, meat, and bones separated
For the stock:
- 1 onion, peeled and diced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- 1 carrot, peeled and diced
- 2 celery ribs, diced
- reserved chicken bones and skin
- 6 quarts water + more as needed
- 1 bunch of cilantro sprigs or broad leaf parsley
- 12 black peppercorns
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried marjoram leaves
Heat the olive oil in a stock pot and add the onions and sauté until the onions have softened. Add the garlic, carrots, and celery and sauté until softened.
Add the bones and skin and stir to combine. Add the water and bring to a boil. Add the cilantro or parsley, peppercorns, bay leaves, and the marjoram.
Bring the pot back to a boil and lower the heat too a simmer and cook for 1 ½ hours. The broth/stock should have reduced by about half.
Let the stock cool and then strain through a fine mesh strainer into a large bowl. Be sure to press the solids and bones as you strain to extract all their flavor. Set the stock aside and discard all the solids.
Once the stock is cool skim off excess fat and discard. Otherwise refrigerate the stock and skim off the fat once it has solidified.
For the soup
Prepare ahead: flame roast or broil 1 large red bell pepper and 1or 2 green serano chiles until charred. Place them in a bowl and seal with cling film and set aside to sweat. When cool enough remove the charred skin and discard. Open the pepper and chiles and remove seeds and membranes. Slice the red pepper into thin strips and cut the stripe into 1 inch lengths. and finely dice the serrano chiles .
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, peeled and diced
- 2½ cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen
- 2 carrots, peeled and diced
- 1 ½ quarts stock
- 1 teaspoon dried marjoram leaves
- pulled rotisserie chicken
- 1 prepared red bell pepper and serrano chiles as described above above
- salt and pepper to taste
Add the oil to a sock pot set over medium heat. When hot add the onions a sauté until the onions soften. Add the corn, carrots and sauté for several minutes. Then add the stock and bring the contents of the pot to a simmer. Add the marjoram and cook for 20 minutes.
pull the chicken into bite size strips and add them to the soup and bring back to a simmer.
Add the prepared red pepper strips and diced seranno chiles and stir to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper to taste. Continue to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
- tostada chips
- fresh cilantro leaves
- fresh lime wedges
Bring the soup to a simmer and ladle the hot soup into individual serving bowls.
Place the tostada chips, cilantro leaves and lime wedges on the table to be add to the soup to each persons liking.
Guacamole, ahu ctl in the Aztec language, is unequivocally Mexico’s most loved contribution to an ever evolving international cuisine that embraces diversity as a commonality of taste.
Guacamole making has been practiced for thousands of years in central Mexico where avocados originate from. The simple traditional guacamole recipe is essentially unchanged. Avocados, onions, chiles, lime juice, cilantro and salt are tossed into a molcajete, a volcanic stone mortar, and pounded with a stone pestle into a rich and flavorful guacamole much like the guacamole we are making today.
I use a mixing bowl and a wooden Mexican bean masher instead of a molcajete for this process which works perfectly. The bean mashers are sometimes available online or in markets in Mexico. Otherwise use a wooden mallet or pestle. Doing the mashing by hand is an essential part of the process that melds the flavors together while preserving their charter. Please, do not even think of using a food processor!
I have probably made guacamole over a thousand times in my lifetime, yet every time I make it, it feels fresh and new. Repeating time tested rituals is what I love about being a cook. There is always a shared history in everything that one does in the kitchen.
I highly recommend using Hass avocados for guacamole or any other application for that matter. They are plentiful here in the US. Most are imported from Mexico and consistently top quality. Hass avocados are smaller than the smooth skinned Fuerte avocados. They have a darker textured skin and a higher oil content that imparts a richer flavor and creamier texture for your guacamole.
The recipe I have provided is only an approximation. Every time you make a guacamole involves orchestrating a delicate balance of flavors so quantities of ingredients will vary somewhat! The key here is to taste and trust tour instincts as you go until the balance of flavors tastes just right. Keep in mind the assertive flavors of a margarita. Balancing the creamy fresh green taste and texture of the oil rich avocados with the tang of onions, the heat of chiles, the tartness of fresh lime juice, and the zest of the cilantro requires an assertive saltiness to bring all those flavors harmoniously together. Practice will have you making a truly authentic guacamole in no time!
Keep in mind that guacamole is best when served fresh so prepare batches accordingly.
- 2 or 3 Hass avocados
- ½ onion, finely diced
- 1 or2 serrano chiles, seeds removed and finely diced
- 2 tablespoon finely sliced cilantro leaves
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice + more to taste
- 1 teaspoon sea salt + more to taste
- 1 tablespoon olive oil f using Fuerte avocados.
Slice the avocados in half lengthwise and remove the pits, reserving one to use when serving if you like.
Spoon out the flesh of the avocados and place in a non reactive mixing bowl.
Add the diced onions, diced chiles, sliced cilantro leaves, lime juice, and salt to the bowl.
Using a wooden bean masher, wooden mallet or wooden pestle, mash the contents of the bowl together until the mixture has a relatively uniform textured consistency and a thick overall creaminess without overworking it if that makes sense.
Taste the guacamole and add additional lime juice and salt as needed. Keep in mind that the lime juice and salt is what is going to bring the guacamole to life!
Serve the guacamole in a non reactive bowl. Tradition has it that placing an avocado pit in the center of the guacamole will retard any discoloration due to exposure to the air. Whether this is true or not is questionable, but it does make an alluring presentation so why not if you like.
Serve guacamole with crisp corn tostada chips, as an accompaniment for tacos, or my favorite, with huevos rancheros for breakfast.
If you refrigerate the guacamole for any lengthen of time before serving press cling film directly onto the surface of the guacamole, seal tightly and refrigerate.
I am a big fan of the high heat roasted chicken that’s been all the rage of late, but a Dutch oven roasted chicken is still a favorite method for a homey one pot meal! It is so easy and never fails to deliver a beautifully bronzed succulent moist chicken along with colorful array of aromatic roasted seasonal vegetables that lays out a comforting meal time after time.
No recipe required as the ingredients will vary with the changing of the seasons.
As it is now approaching late fall the vegetables I have used are season appropriate including onions, garlic, turnips, carrots, celery, potatoes, and bell peppers. Herbs used include locally dried rosemary, sage, and thyme, and a bay leaf. All the vegetables are tossed together with extra virgin olive oil and seasoned with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and roasted along with the chicken.
The whole chicken I’ve used is free range. Rinse the chicken well and pat dry with a paper towels. Generously salt the interior of the cavity and tuck in a couple of garlic cloves, a sprig of rosemary, and some died sage and thyme, and a bay leaf. Loosen the skin covering the breasts and legs and slip in some butter and rosemary under the skin. Season the exterior of the chicken generously with salt and pepper. Set the chicken aside to come to room temperature.
By all means if you have a Dutch oven this is the time to use it. A cast Iron Dutch oven with a tight fitting lid retains heat beautifully and is ideal for slow roasting. Otherwise use a large casserole dish with lid or a roasting pan with the contents covered tightly with foil.
Set the oven temperature at 350 f /180 c
Lay a single layer of prepared vegetable vegetables in the bottom of the pan and center the chicken on top of them, breast side up.
Tuck the remaining vegetables in around the chicken, leaving the top of the chicken exposed. Rub with olive oil and season the exposed top of the chicken with salt and pepper again if needed.
Add a half cup of water and cover tightly with the lid. Place in the oven, and roast for 45 minutes.
Open the oven and turn the pan from front to back and roast another 25 minutes, covered.
Then open the oven and remove the lid to expose the top of the chicken.. Increase the temperature to 375 f/ 190 c. Push the pan to the back of the oven and roast another 15 or 20 minutes or until he the top of the chicken is nicely browned.
Remove the pan from the oven and set aside with the lid just ajar to rest for 10 minutes.
Transfer the chicken to a carving board, carve, and serve promptly with roasting liquid spooned over the chicken and vegetables.
Having some warm thick slices of crusty levain loaf is the perfect for accompaniment for sopping up some of that irresistibly flavorsome roasting liquid left in the pan!
Leftovers?: My go to favorite re purposing solution is enchiladas! They are easy to assemble and are always sure to please.
Reheat some of the roasted chicken that has been pulled along with vegetables that have been cut up along with roasting liquid to cover in a saucepan over medium low heat. Cover and bring to a summer.
warm corn tortillas on a griddle or in a cast iron skillet. Top with some grated mild cheese. When the cheese begins to melt transfer the now pliable tortilla to a serving plate. Top with hot chicken and vegetables and roll up the enchilada with the seam tucked underneath to hold it together.
Bring the pan liquid to a simmer. Stir together 1 tablespoon of corn starch with 1 tablespoon of cold water, or more depending on the amount of liquid, and add to the simmering pan liquid while stirring for two minutes until thickened. Add salt to taste. Ladle the sauce over the enchiladas garnished with sour cream or Greek yogurt.