leave your inhibitions at the door
One of the more popular stands at the Ann Arbor Farmers’ Market is Tantre Farms, which was featured in the New York Times a couple of years ago. I think their popularity comes from the fact that they are a bunch of hippies and, to be honest, Ann Arbor loves its hippies. Personally, I don’t like them for many reasons with the primary one being BECAUSE they’re hippies. I also find that they are more expensive than other stands and their quality isn’t always as good. But one of the biggest issues I have with them is that they usually don’t wash their produce. I don’t know how many times I’ve wasted gallons of water cleaning their greens or taking layers of mud off beets. I often wonder what’s dirtier – their goods or their bodies. But they do have the widest variety and often have things I’ve never cooked before. This time I hit the jackpot.
I noticed they had a small pile of what looked to be weird-looking corn. Looking closer, I saw it was huitlacoche, a fungus that grows on corn ears that’s been labeled a superfood because of its fantastic nutritional value. Farmers here in the US consider it a blight and try their hardest to eradicate it. But just like offal, soccer, and Jerry Lewis, things we toss away in America are considered delicacies around the world. In this case, huitlacoche is prized in Mexico for its sweet, mushroomy, and earthy flavors.
But the name doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue – hoo-EET-la-COACH-ay. You can try it twenty times and may never get it right. Some people get all uppity and call it “corn truffle” – not bad, better than “corn fungus.” But the best alias for it is – are you ready for this – CORN SMUT! I’m dead serious, it’s also called “corn SMUT”. Given that there are people who find my site by Googling “Alex Trebek Shirtless,” I’m going to write “corn SMUT” as many times as I can in this post so I can get more page views. Because you know there are some guys out there looking for the type of corn SMUT that you can’t eat.
I actually had to buy corn SMUT two separate times. The first time, Boom Boom saw it in the fridge before I could cook it. She came into my office and interrupted an important conference call with an expression I can only describe as “utterly horrified.” As much as I tried to convince her it’s supposed to look like that, she tossed it.
I went back the next week, bought some more, and didn’t waste any time cooking the corn PORN. Er, I mean corn SMUT. I first heard about it from Rick Bayless, so I figured I’d use one of his recipes – Corn-Mushroom Tacos.
I know Rick’s got a reputation to uphold, but I’m surprised he didn’t just upgrade the name to “corn adult films.” Oh well, he’s got his priorities. I don’t have the luxury of a good name, so I’m calling them –
Corn SMUT Tacos
Makes 12 tacos
– 2 fresh poblano chiles
– 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
– 1 medium white onion, finely chopped
– 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
– 1 medium tomato, diced
– 2 cups packed, roughly chopped lobes of corn SMUT
– 3 tablespoons chopped epazote or cilantro leaves
– 12 corn tortillas
1. Make the filling: Roast the chiles over a gas flame or below a broiler until blackened on all sides. Cover with a kitchen towel and let stand 5 minutes. Peel the chiles, discard the stem and seeds and rinse briefly. Cut the chiles into 1⁄4- inch dice.
2. In a medium skillet, heat the oil. Add the onion and cook over medium heat, stirring, until lightly browned, about 7 to 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for 2 minutes longer. Increase the heat to medium-high, add the tomato and cook, stirring occasionally, until its juices have reduced, about 4 minutes.
3. Add the poblanos and corn SMUTand simmer, stirring often, until reduced and quite thick, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and add the chopped epazote or cilantro.
4. Warm the tortillas: Place a steaming basket in a large saucepan filled with 1⁄2 inch of water and bring the water to a boil. Wrap the tortillas in a clean kitchen towel, place in the steamer and cover with a tight lid. Boil for 1 minute, then turn off the heat and let stand without opening the steamer for 15 minutes.
5. Assemble the tacos: Just before serving, reheat the filling. Spoon some of the filling into a warm tortilla and fold it over. Repeat with the remaining tortillas and filling and serve right away.