Chances are you have heard of the mushrooms portabella, beech, and probably even King Trumpet, but have you ever heard of corn smut? Also known as huitlacoche, corn smut isn't exactly a mushroom, but it is a very close fungus sister to many mushrooms. If you have never heard of this type of fungus, you may be asking, what is huitlacoche? If you are, then you are in luck! This article will explore huitlacoche, where it grows, and how to cook it.
What is Huitlacoche?
Huitlacoche, pronounced (whee-tla-KOH-cheh), is a culinary delicacy in Central America. It is often in soups, tortillas, and enchiladas. While its official name is huitlacoche, this fungi also goes by Mexican truffle, corn truffle, and corn smut.
Huitlacoche being eaten as a delicacy dates back to at least the Aztecs, although it is most likely that corn smut as a food goes back even further than that. The Aztecs called it Nahuati, and Native American tribes Hopi and Zuni also used corn truffle. Not only did they consume it as a delicacy food, but they also used this fungi for medicinal purposes.
The name the Zuni and Hopi tribes used for the Mexican truffle was Nanha.
While those who are not fans of fungus as a food may have a hard time imagining eating this type, huitlacoche is quite popular as a culinary delicacy in Central America. Not many things typically beat fresh products. However, there are canned options in the grocery store for corn truffle.
What is Corn Smut, Exactly?
Huitlacoche is a fungal disease that affects numerous types of corn plants and is caused by Ustilago maydis.
While corn smut is considered a delicacy in Central America, many farmers in other countries do not count it as such. They may go to great lengths to keep it off their corn.
When the huitlacoche grows, the affected corn kernels will turn grey. Also, this fungal disease will only grow on organic corn. The appearance of Mexican truffles can be likened to small stones or pepples because they are blue-grey. However, the inside of the huitlacoche is dark, close to black. Additionally, the hotter the corn truffle gets, the darker its appearance will be. Therefore, when cooking corn smut, the fungi will be almost black when you serve it. Corn smut spreads to other corn plants by the spores which traverse through the air.
Possible Nutritional Benefits of Huitlacoche
While huitlacoche may not be visually appealing to the naked eye, it carries several health benefits. For starters, corn truffles do have more protein than the corn plants. Additionally, it is full of lysine, which is an amino acid.
Lysine is an amino acid our bodies can not make alone. We receive it from outside sources like food. Our bodies need lysine because it helps us absorb calcium and is beneficial for our bones and skin.
What Does Huitlacoche Taste Like?
Huitlacoche is very similar in taste and texture to numerous mushrooms. It has a delicate and spongy texture that is also quite soft. You do not have to chop Mexican truffles before preparing them for a meal. Instead, it can easily pull apart, making prep work a breeze. If you eat fresh huitlacoche, it is essential to pick it while it is still soft and spongy; otherwise, the flavor will be less potent.
Many people describe the flavor of corn truffles in a variety of ways. Some say it has a sweet yet savory flavor. Others praise huitlacoche for its corn-like and woody taste. Others say it has a flavor similar to other mushrooms and is quite woody and earthy. If you are trying corn truffles for the first time, the flavor may be acquired and could take some getting used to.
How to Cook Corn Truffles
To prepare and cook huitlacoche is very simple. Corn truffle pairs well in numerous recipes and is an excellent alternative to mushrooms. Decide what recipe to use, tear it apart, and sautee! Huitlacoche cooks well with plenty of seasoning and tastes delicious in a soup or sauce. Many people enjoy huitlacoche with cheese because the flavors complement one another.
If you are looking for a tasty recipe to try, give this a shot:Print
- 1 cup fresh or canned huitlacoche (corn smut)
- 2 poblano peppers
- 1 cup roasted corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
- 1 cup shredded Oaxaca or Monterey Jack cheese
- 8 small corn tortillas
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Fresh cilantro for garnish (optional)
- Lime wedges for serving
Roast Poblano Peppers:
- Preheat the oven broiler.
- Place poblano peppers on a baking sheet and broil, turning occasionally, until the skin is blistered and charred.
- Transfer the peppers to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let them steam for 10 minutes.
- Peel off the skin, remove seeds, and dice the roasted poblano peppers.
- If using fresh huitlacoche, sauté it in a pan over medium heat for 5-7 minutes until cooked. If using canned huitlacoche, drain it before using.
- Heat a skillet or griddle over medium heat.
- Brush one side of each tortilla with olive oil.
- Place tortillas, oil side down, on the skillet.
- On one half of each tortilla, layer huitlacoche, roasted corn, diced poblano peppers, and shredded cheese.
- Fold the other half over the filling to create a half-moon shape.
- Cook for 2-3 minutes per side or until the tortillas are golden brown and the cheese is melted.
- Cut the quesadillas into wedges.
- Garnish with fresh cilantro if desired.
- Serve with lime wedges on the side.
One Last Note
You should try huitlacoche if you are adventurous or enjoy an excellent mushroom-like fungi with your meal. The flavor is savory, woody, and unique, while the texture resembles mushrooms. Throw in the fact that corn truffles are super easy to prepare, and you may find your new favorite recipe!
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Guajillo studio/Shutterstock.com.