Huitlacoche and Corn Casserole

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I have been accused of being many things, but a timid eater is not one of them. I will try anything, (and will do my best to force it on others), which explains my delight in finding huitlacoche at a recent farmers market.

A member of the fungus species ustilago maydis, huitlacoche is also known as cuitlucoche, corn smut, devils corn, maize mushroom, and Mexican truffle.The name is derived from two words: cuitlatl (excrement) and cochi (sleeping). Now don’t you want to try it?

Technically, cuitlucoche is a fungus that grows on ears of corn. The Hopi, Zuni, and Aztec tribes have long considered it a delicacy, but farmers in the United States see it as a nuisance. Infected kernels expand as they fill with spores and become dark gray and black tumors or “galls.” Don’t let the appearance fool you, though. The smoky-sweet flavor, similar to mushrooms, is prized throughout Central America. It adds a delicious element to many recipes, especially chile-cheesy ones.

Fresh huitlacoche is available at some farmers’ markets in the late summer. You can also find it canned at most Latin American markets, although it’s not as good as fresh.

Come on ya big baby. Try it!


  • 4 TB. butter
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 roasted Anaheim, Poblano, or Pasilla chiles, diced
  • [1/4] cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • [1/4] cup fresh epazote, chopped
  • 1 lb. fresh or canned cuitlucoche
  • 1 (10-oz.) pkg. frozen corn kernels
  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 8 to 10 corn tortillas
  • 1 lb. panella cheese, grated


1. Preheat the oven to 350[dg]F.

2. In a large sauté pan over medium heat, melt butter. Add onion and sauté until golden brown. Add garlic, chiles, cilantro, and epazote, and continue cooking until tender. Add huitlacoche, corn, and whipping cream, and stir. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

3. In a casserole dish, layer huitlacoche -corn mixture with tortillas and grated cheese, as you would a lasagna, finishing with sauce and then cheese on the very top.

4. Cover casserole and bake for 30 minutes or until bubbly. Remove lid and bake 5 more minutes until the top is golden brown. Serve with fresh tomato salsa and sour cream.

Brined Turkey

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Are you ready for the World Series of Cooking?
turkey bather
By far the best bird I’ve ever had has been a brined bird. Brining is essentially a marinade, high in salt, with sugar, spices, and herbs.

Brining hydrates the cells of the muscle. The salt content of the brine is higher than the muscle cells, and this saline contrast forces the salt into the cell by osmosis. (Osmosis is when one solvent moves from a low concentration, like turkey meat, to a high concentration, like salty brine.) The salt draws the water and flavorings in with it, resulting in a moist, flavorful bird. The salt also denatures the protein of the muscle, which essentially re-configures the protein to hold more water.

You can brine any meat, but it is especially useful on cuts that tend to be dry. (I use it on pork a lot, which is bred with a little fat these days.) The beauty of the brined bird it that it is very hard to over-roast it. Even if you are well known for your dry bird, you will be hard-pressed to mess this on up.


  • 2 cups kosher salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 5-6 bay leaves
  • 2 TB. cup dried thyme
  • 1/4 cup peppercorns
  • 1 TB. juniper berries
  • 1 TB. allspice
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 -3 gallons water, divided
  • 1-2 quarts ice
  • 1 (10-15 lb.) turkey, defrosted


1. Combine salt, sugar, herbs and spices, onion and celery in a large saucepan. Add enough water to cover, then bring to a boil over high heat. At the boil, reduce heat and stir occasionally until sugar and salt are dissolved. Transfer to a large stock pot or bucket that will fit the bird, and fit in your fridge. Add 1-2 quarts ice to cool brine.

2. Remove giblets from turkey and rinse inside and out. Place into brine and cover with water, making sure bird is submerged. You may need to weight him down with a heavy plate topped with some canned goods. Refrigerate for 24 hours.

3. Preheat oven to 450˚F. Bend the wings backwards and tuck the wing tips behind the turkey’s back (like he’s being cuffed). Legs can be tied together with kitchen twine, but leaving them open will cook the bird faster, and make the legs crispier. Place a roasting rack inside a roasting pan, and set the bird on the rack, breasts facing up. Fill the bottom of the pan with 1-inch of water, which will prevent smoke from fat drippings.

turkey bend

4. Put the pan in the oven, and reduce the heat to 350˚F. Baste every 10-15 minutes throughout roasting time. Cook for 20 minutes for every pound. When you think it’s done, insert an instant read thermometer into the thigh muscle. The meat should be 180-185˚F.

You’ll find Stuffing and Gravy recipes in the Recipe File.

turk dinner


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As promised, this week’s recipe is the choux masterpiece, Paris-Brest. It was created in the 19th century to commemorate one of the earliest cycling races , which went from Paris and back via the city of Brest, in the Brittany, or Bretagne, region of Northwest France.

The first cycling race, Bordeaux-Paris, took place in 1891. The Paris- Brest et Retour, later known as the Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) was staged that same year. The Bordeaux race fell out of favor in the 1980’s due to competition from the Giro D’Italia and the Vuelta a España, but the PBP is still run every 5 years as an amateur individual cycling event. The Tour de France was organized as a publicity event, and hopes were high that it would surpass the popularity of the PBP.

Let’s honor the history of cycling, and all the clean athletes, by indulging in this super-cool and historically luscious dessert.


  • 2 cups water
  • 5 oz. (1[1/4] stick) butter
  • 1 TB. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1[2/3] cup all-purpose flour
  • 7 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 TB. cream
  • [1/2 ] cup sliced almonds
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • [1/2] cup Nutella or giandujia (hazelnut milk-chocolate)


1. Preheat oven to 400˚F. Coat a baking sheet with pan spray. In a large sauce pan combine water, butter, sugar, salt, and bring to a boil. At the boil add flour and stir vigorously with a sturdy spoon for at least 3 minutes, until all the flour is absorbed and the mixture resembles mashed potatoes. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Add eggs, one at a time, blending each one thoroughly before adding the next. When all the eggs are in add cheese and mix well.

2. Using a large pastry bag with a large plain tip (or a big zipper bag with the corner cut out), pipe the choux in 2 touching concentric circles about 8 inches in diameter. Next, pipe another circle on top, in the seam of the first two circles. Pipe the choux out thick. It should resemble a thick bike tire at this stage. Make an egg wash with egg yolk and cream, brush lightly on top of the circle, then sprinkle with sliced almonds. Bake at 400˚F until puffed and golden brown, about 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 325˚F and cook until firm and dark brown, about 30 more minutes. Cool completely, then slice in half horizontally.

3. Whip cream to soft peaks. You may use an electric mixer if you have one, but you must finish it off by hand because nutty fat mixed with heavy cream is easily broken. Add the Nutella or melted and cooled giandujia to the softly whipped cream, and continue to whip by hand until stiff. If it starts to look cottage-cheesy, stop whipping. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a decorative star tip. Pipe cream onto the bottom half of the choux circle. Use a big, swooping, swirling motion to completely cover the base of the choux ring. Place the top of the choux ring on the cream, and dust with powdered sugar. Keep the Paris-Brest chilled until you are ready to serve.


As I am writing this, I am watching a replay of the final stage. The peloton is circling the Place de la Concord, and then it is over for another year. This great Athletic event is worth a look if you are unfamiliar. It is the perfect sport for foodies. After all, it’s France!


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Today’s recipe is posted in honor of the Olympics, which is running pretty much 24/7 in our house. I love England, London, and cute, fit young guys—so it’s a win-win for me.

Anxious for the opening ceremony, I searched the internet in vain for live links, but had to, in the end, make do with still photos that made me even more excited. It was thrilling despite Matt Lauer and Meredith Vierra’s insipid commentary, (did she really sing along with a Stones song?) and the tedious commercials, which I now hear resulted in the cutting of an Israeli memorial segment. Boo NBC.

This dish hails from 16th century Britain, and consisted of cream flavored with a delightful mix of ginger and rose water, not unlike the colonial “foole”. Later versions saw the addition of liquor soaked bread, custard, and jellies. In Scotland a similar dish, the Tipsy Laird is made with whiskey. In the American South the Tipsy Cake bears a striking resemblance as well.

Like all of my favorite preparations, it can easily be made using leftovers. I like pound cake for this recipe, but many prefer sponge, and even sweet bread works well. (Try it with leftover croissants!) The cake element is not as important as a good Anglaise, and fresh, ripe fruit. Huzzah!


  • 1 recipe Pound Cake, diced into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup sherry, brandy, or liqueur
  • 3 cups assorted fresh fruit, including strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, peeled and sliced kiwi, sliced peaches or plums, and orange segments
  • 1 recipe Creme Anglaise
  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 2 TB. sugar
  • 1 TB vanilla extract


1. Layer the bottom of a large glass serving bowl with 1/3 of the diced cake, and drizzle with 2 tablespoons sherry. Arrange on top of the cake half of the fresh fruit. Take care to place attractive fruits against the glass. Add another 1/3 of the cake cubes, sherry, the remaining fruit. Finish with the remaining cake and sherry, then pour the cooled custard sauce over the cake, evenly distributing. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.

2. Just before serving, whip cream and sugar together in a large bowl using a whisk or an electric mixer. At medium peak, add vanilla and mix in. Spread whipped cream evenly over the top of the trifle. To serve, dig deep with a large serving spoon to scoop out cake and fruit for everyone.

London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony