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Repost: A Favorite from 2011

May 27, 2015

Free Internet Smut
Originally posted: July 18, 2011

I almost threw away the free smut I found last week. But then I thought twice about that decision, pulled it out of the trash, and put it in a plain brown paper bag. After tucking the bag away, I was off to the Internet to find out more about my dirty little package. And man, you should have seen the pictures my search turned up.

In the end, I found a beautiful woman on twitter who convinced me to take the smut out of the bag, and turn it into an orgiastic delight of the senses. Now I can’t wait to do it again.

You do know I’m talking about food, right? Perhaps I should start from the beginning.

This is the second year I signed on for the Roxbury Farm CSA. They are a biodynamic farm, which means, among other things, that they do not use conventional pesticides and fungicides on their crops. This is important to me. And it means that occasionally I’ll get a happy green little wormmunching on some beet greens, and those are always welcome visitors in our home.

Anyway, last week we got the season’s first ears of corn.

This was very exciting, because last year the corn was simply fantastic. But corn needs to be eaten immediately, so I went out to the porch to do some husking. As I was peeling off the outer layers of the second ear of corn, I was confronted by a strange sight. There were grey and black growths on the kernels. Some were wet and sticky looking, and wholly unappealing. So I tossed the ear in the bag with the discarded husks.

Then it occurred to me. Could this be huitlacoche?

You may be asking, what’s huitlacoche? Well, most American farmers call it corn smut and spend a lot of time, money and effort trying to avoid it. But it was eaten by the Aztecs and is considered a delicacy in Mexico. I had most recently eaten it towards the end of last winter at Maya in New York City. There it came in the form of a dumpling that was served in a roasted corn soup. For the record, I think it’s delicious.

But then again, I had never encountered it in its natural form, and I do have to admit it looks totally disgusting. However sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith. So I went to the Internets to figure it out.

After all, maybe this wasn’t the delicious kind of mold. Perhaps this could actually be dangerous. So I thought it was important to ask an expert. The best person I could think of was Ron Zimmerman of The Herbfarm. He’s into wild foods and foraging. At his restaurant they make their own salt.

So I took a picture and sent him a tweet. He sent it to his Mexican food expert Patricia Jinich in Washington D.C. and before the day was over, I had my answer, “Looks perfect and dangerously delicious ; )”

Figuring it was like a mushroom, and the best way I know of to keep mushrooms is in a brown paper bag in the refrigerator, I tucked it away as I needed to procure some additional ingredients before making one glorious huitlacoche taco.

So it was off to the local Mexican market to get corn tortillas, queso fresco and dried chiles.

Assembly was a rather easy affair. I shaved the fungus off the cob with a sharp knife and coarsely chopped it. The dried chiles got soaked, seeded and diced. Onions were sliced. Garlic was minced. Cheese was cubed. Tortillas were warmed.

I took a small stainless steel skillet on medium high heat, put in some organic expeller pressedcanola oil, and then threw in the onions for long enough to get some color on them. Afterwards I added the garlic to cook some of the rawness out, followed by the chile peppers and then the fungus (seasoning with salt as each item went into the pan). Once the huitlacoche was heated through it went onto the warmed tortilla, posed for a quick glamour shot, and then into my mouth.

Let me tell you, that was a decadent treat: simple, rich, smoky and satisfying.

And I’m glad to report that I suffered no ill effects from eating something that looked like it should have made me sick. Unless you count a strong and burning desire to eat more diseased corn as an ill effect. Because that I’ve got. And how.

Now I just hope that we get more moldy corn from Roxbury. I even sent the farm a note, and will follow up with a copy of this post. Because it would be an absolute tragedy if the people who received this serendipitous Mexican treat in their corn wrote to complain, and the farmers trashed the remainder of the crop.

Instead, I hope my fellow shareholders will embrace what most people dismiss as smut. It’s easy to prepare, delicious and nutritious. And when you eat it, you feel a little bit like a badass.

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