Since we are almost in September, I will be posting Mexican recipes and also talking about Mexico’s most emblematic ingredients this month, to properly celebrate Mexico’s independence day. Inspite there is a lot of skeptical people with this celebration, I like it. Not in an hyper-patriotic way, but more like admiration to our culture and traditions.
So, today I’m going to share a very unique pie recipe, not because of the complexity of the recipe itself, but because of its unique main ingredient: huitlacoche. In Mexico, we usually eat huitlacoche in different presentations: quesadillas de huitlacoche (tortilla with melted cheese), soups (huitlacoche cream), as a filling in stuffed chicken.. etc.
A year ago I bought one pound of huitlacoche, and I didn’t know how cook it (because I was kind of tired of quesadillas), so I decided to make a pie substituting my very common mushroom filling for a huitlacoche filling. Finally this came up as a great idea because everybody loved the combination.
A little bit of history ... Huitlacoche is a “disease”!, a plant pathogen fungus, Ustilago maydis, and is responsible for the corn smut. Although this fungus is usually considered a world-wide desease, its value is even more than the corn itself. Below, please enjoy this amazing picture of how huitlacoche actually looks like.
Huitlacoche is not difficult to find in México; traditionally, you could only find the fungus during the months of July and August (rainy season), but lately, I have found huitlacoche all year! You can buy around 1/2 kg for less than 2 dollars (really cheap!) and you can also find canned huitlacoche, tough I don’t know the flavor, I’ve never tried it.
Now a days, huitlacoche is used as a culinary delight by international chefs because of its amazing flavor, aroma and pretty particular organoleptic characteristics. Is often referred as the “Mexican Truffle”.
But there is much more than just an amazing flavor. Lately, huitlacoche is been considered as a functional food (foods with specific characteristics and functions like improving health or reducing the risk of some disease, scientifically proven of course!). If you are interested on this, please see at the end of the post some of the main functions found in huitlacoche.
This recipe contains epazote, which is an herb native to south Mexico, and is widely use in Mexican cuisine. People often compare it with oregano or fennel, but I don’t think they taste similar. Epazote has a very strong flavor, very difficult to explain. We use this herb mainly in to dishes: frijoles (beans) and huitlacoche. It’s no difficult to grow this plant, in fact it is like mint, you plant some in your garden and when you least expect.. PUM! all your garden is full of epazote.
- 1/2 kg of puff pastry
- 1/2 kg of huitlacoche
- 1/2 cup of corn (can be canned)
- A few leaves of epazote
- Chopped onion
How to do it
- Buy abut 1/2 kg of puff pastry in the supermarket. You can also do it yourself, but I think that is a little bit complicated, if you want this for a reunion or your lunch, supermarket puff pastry can work perfectly!
- Gently fry the chopped onions, epazote and corn.
- Add 250 g of huitlacoche and add it to the pan. Liquate the remaining 250 g of huitlacoche in a blender, and add it to the pan also.
- Add salt, pepper, or any other specie you like
- Keep cooking for about 10-15 minutes and stir occasionally.
- To fill the pie, you must leave the huitlacoche stew cool a little bit. If you don’t to this, it will melt your puff pastry and you will make a complete disaster (I’ve been there 😦 )
- After filling the pie, glaze with a beaten egg and a tablespoon of milk.
- Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, at 350 F (180 C) or until top is golden.
- Let the pie cool down for a while
A few tips from my experience:
- If you don’t have epazote, or you don’t like it, don’t worry, it is not vital. BUT, all traditional recipes use epazote.
- I love to do braided pies! They look very nice and they are easy to serve. It is also a good gesture if you are invited to a reunion :).
So, have you tried huitlacoche? 🙂
So, why is this ingredient considered as a “functional food”?
Huitlacoche contains almost all the essential and many of the non-essential amino acids. Why are amino acids important? Well, they are the building blocks of proteins!
The content of total dietary fiber, soluble dietary fiber and insoluble dietary fiber are higher in huitlacoche than in corn.
Huitlacoche produces enzymes like tyrosinasa and laccasa. Both of this enzymes are involved in the production of quercetine and kaempferol; and these two compounds are polyphenoles, which are proven that are effective anti-cancer agents because they increase the anti-cancer activities of drugs like dacarbazine (DTIC) and NAC. (Of course, as all of this kind of foods, it is not like if you eat this foods you are not in risk of having cancer).
Huitlacoche produce indolic compounds, like ascorbigen (also found in cabbage, brocoli and other crucifers). There is experimental evidence that suggest that there compounds confer a protector effect against cancer, specifically breast cancer because they inhibit estrogen type receptors.
Huitlacoche produce ustilagic lipid acid, which has an antagonic effect in Botrytis cinerea ( a fungus that affects many plant species, specially wine grapes). So, this suggest we can use this molecule as some kind of biocontrol in plant desease.
Juárez M., Ruiloba S., Chávez G., Hernández C. and Villa L. (2011). Huitlacoche (corn smut), caused by the phytopathogenic fungus Ustilago maydis, as functional food. Revista Iberoamericana de Micología. Elservier. http://goo.gl/bSFPEx
Ruiz J. and Martínez A. (1998). The fungus Ustilago maydis, from the aztec cuisine to the laboratory. Internal Microbiol. Springer-Velag Iberica. http://goo.gl/jV02vU