Jarred Corn Smut: It's What's for Dinner

Categories: Recipes

Huitlacoche Risotto with Roasted Mushrooms and Zucchini Puree 3.JPG
I'm sure a lot of you, upon hearing the term "jarred corn smut," might assume that this post would be better off as an addendum to John Seaborn Gray's elegant treatise on whole chicken in a can and other packaged delights. I suppose that's why most choose to call the silvery-black fungus that grows on corn kernels by either its Mexican name, huitlacoche, or one of the other, much more charming monikers that have been given to the stuff over the years, like corn mushrooms or corn truffles.

Whatever you choose to call it, though, huitlacoche is considered something of a delicacy, particularly in Mexico. It is frequently eaten as a filling in tacos and quesadillas, though I've never had it that way. In fact, I've only had the stuff twice, and have never seen it for sale fresh at any market, farmers' or otherwise. That's why I got particularly excited when I found jarred huitlacoche for sale at my local Fiesta store. Of course, I had to buy some and figure out what to do with it.

This jarred version was much milder than the stuff I'd had before. It smelled slightly yeasty, like a loaf of fresh white bread, with smoky and nutty undertones. The flavor was much the same, but brought in a bit of earthy funk. The taste of the corn kernels actually shone through more than I remembered, offering up a roasted corn undertone that was quite nice.

I consulted a few recipes online, and decided against going with a simple taco or quesadilla. The jarred stuff has a very liquid consistency that just didn't seem like it would hold up well stuffed inside a tortilla. After finding a single reference to a recipe for "arroz negro," in which the fungus is cooked into rice, I decided to make a huitlacoche risotto.

A quick deliberation on the base flavor for the risotto turned up what I felt to be an obvious choice. I went with a corn-cob and mushroom stock for the liquid component, figuring that the flavor profile of corn and fungus would complement the corn fungus, and enjoying the play on words involved. I blended the jar of huitlacoche with a bit of stock to even out the texture, and stirred it in as the risotto cooked.

I remembered a dish I'd had at Yelapa, wherein a braised short-rib was sided with huitlacoche mashed potatoes and a zucchini puree. The earthy pungency of the huitlacoche paired very nicely with the bright yet rich flavor of the puree, and the splash of color was nice. I decided to steal this idea, and make my own zucchini puree as a complement to the risotto.

A few halved zucchini, glazed with olive oil and roasted till soft with a handful of garlic cloves, then pureed in a blender with a touch of butter and just enough water to even out the texture -- that's all there was to it, and it was gorgeous. As a capstone and garnish, I opted to roast some quartered crimini and black oyster mushrooms, again riffing on the fungal theme of the dish.

It was delicious. The risotto was mildly sweet from the corn stock, deeply savory from the mushroom stock, and earthy and pungent from the huitlacoche. The flavor was well rounded and surprisingly mild, despite having significant depth. The roasted mushrooms on top picked up the savory flavors and amplified them, offering textural counterpoint as well. The zucchini puree was buttery and rich, but retained its vegetal character. It balanced out all the deeper notes, adding a hint of brightness. It was also a nice color addition, looking strikingly verdant alongside the earth-toned risotto.

Best of all, the whole dinner came together quite quickly, as I had come across a new (and absolutely brilliant) technique for pre-hydrating, then flash-cooking risotto not long ago over on the Ideas in Food blog. Armed with this technique, and the knowledge that jarred corn smut is available nearby, huitlacoche risotto just might make it into regular rotation.



Advertisement

My Voice Nation Help
6 comments
Megan
Megan

My throat is itchy just thinking about this. (My father and I are both allergic to huitlacoche.) Please enjoy my share!

Paula
Paula

Huitalacoche is on the menu at Hugo's!

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

Man, do I love huitlacoche. In keeping with your experience, one of the best meals of my life was in November 2009 at Yelapa, when it first opened: crispy-skinned chicken with huitlacoche and polenta. Holy hell, was it wonderful. I remember it still...

Nicholas L. Hall
Nicholas L. Hall

I'm sure I shouldn't admit this, but I actually have yet to visit Hugo's.

Nicholas L. Hall
Nicholas L. Hall

Now that you mention it, I'm pretty sure it was polenta, not potatoes, that the huitlacoche I had at Yelapa came with. Super, super creamy polenta. The huitlacoche just sent it over the top. Gonna really miss Yelapa. . .

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

Loading...