JACKPOT! I found fresh Huitlacoche (or Cuitlacoche) at the grocery store a couple of days ago. I’m sure most of you have no clue what I’m talking about, and why should you? Huitlacoche is known as Corn Smut in the United States, and it is a type of fungus that infects maize (corn) crops. So, most farmers around the world despise this edible fungus, because smut-infested crops aren’t worth a penny and are destroyed. In Mexico, however, huitlacoche is a traditional pre-Hispanic food which was cultivated by the Aztecs. As far as I know, you can’t get this stuff fresh in San Diego. The canned version can be found at Hispanic markets, but it is usually very expensive. A quick check on Amazon proves my point: $7.66 for a 7 ounce can.
I LOVE huitlacoche, so anytime I’m in Mexico, I eat it every chance I get. There is a little… ummm… shack?…”restuarant” in Playa del Carmen, that I visited on a weekly basis, just to get my huitlacoche fix. They made absolutely delicious huitlacoche filled quesadillas, using corn-potato tortillas. Yes, corn AND potato…together…as one tortilla, filled with cheese and huitlacoche and drizzled with green tomatillo sauce (my mouth is watering as I type). Unfortunately, the last time I was in Playa del Carmen was before I moved to Cozumel, about a month and a half ago. So, you can imagine my level of excitement when I saw the fresh huitlacoche, but there were only 2 packages left and I (naïvely) grabbed only one. (I have now learned -the hard way, of course- that when you see something you like on this island you should buy at the very least 2, because you never know when or if they’ll supply more.) The 500 gram package of fresh huitlacoche cost less than $2 USD… I honestly felt like I had either stolen something or won the lottery. I purchased all the ingredients needed to make quesadillas de huitlacoche: freshly made corn tortillas, queso oaxaca, fresh epazote… and ran home.
Queso Oaxaca (Oaxaca cheese) is a traditional Mexican cheese from the second southernmost state of Oaxaca. It looks like the love child of fresh mozzarella and string cheese and comes wrapped in a ball. You can buy commercial queso oaxaca at Hispanic markets in the US, but it really does not taste like the more authentic version sold in central and southern Mexico.
Epazote is a pungent herb, native to southern Mexico. You can use it dried or fresh. It is commonly added to black beans and huitlacoche.
Quesadillas de Huitlacoche Recipe
For the filling:
- 500 grams of fresh huitlacoche, roughly chopped
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh epazote, chopped (substitute with dried epazote or oregano)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
For the quesadillas:
- 12 corn tortillas
- 250 grams oaxaca cheese (substitute with monterrey jack)
Heat up olive oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent, then add huitlacoche and epazote. Stir continuously for 7 minutes, until the huitlacoche has turned an even black color. Remove from heat and set aside.
Spread out several tortillas evenly over a comal or large saucepan. Flip over to heat both sides until soft. Place strings of oaxaca cheese on half of each tortilla, spoon huitlacoche filling on top, and fold in half. Flip as necessary, until both sides become lightly toasted. Serve with green tomatillo sauce and avocado.
I served my quesadillas de huitlacoche with a side of ensalada de nopal (cactus salad)…don’t worry, I’ll post that recipe soon. I also added some fresh epazote leaves, because I really like the taste. The finished outcome was absolutely delicious and my boyfriend couldn’t believe it was my first time preparing huitlacoche. The taste is very difficult to describe, so I really hope that you decide try huitlacoche and please let me know what you think it tastes like!
– The Vegetarian Mexican