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Some May Call it SMUT

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Some May Call it SMUT

zora | Aug 11, 2002 08:08 PM

Last weekend, I brought home a dozen ears of corn from the Dupont Circle farmers' market. I gave them to my mother-in-law to shuck. I heard her call out: "Oh, no! this one's bad. Where shall I throw it out?" I asked to see it, and beheld the tell-tale blue bubbles of corn fungus here and there on the ear. I saved it and made one precious enchilada for my husband and me later in the week.

Today, I went back to the same vendor. I told her about the ear with corn fungus.
"Did you eat it?" she asked me.
"You bet! Do you have any more?" She went to the back of her truck and returned holding a grotesquely misshapen corh husk. "This is the most I've ever seen on one," she said. She didn't have any others. She charged me fifty cents. Said no one else would buy it. She called it CORN SMUT. I call it HUITLACOCHE, the truffles of the Aztecs.

HA!!! When i got it home and shucked it-- the cob was completely infected. Every kernel was distended into a blueish grey, bulbous shape. It looked like the stuff of nightmares, but when I cut it off the cob, chopped it up and sauteed it with onion and roasted poblano, it tasted like a dream. I served the huitlacoche over arepa-style sopes, made with manchego cheese and a little lard in the dough. A spoonful of creme fraiche and some chopped cilantro as a garnish. Incredible -- that something so delicious and a great delicacy in another culture would be seen as a scourge by corn farmers here.

Has anyone found a U.S. farm market where huitlacoche is regularly available--perhaps cultivated like grape growers who inoculate grapes to make sauternes?

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