Corn smut or maize mushrooms are considered a delicacy and it’s no wonder. They impart a sweet, earthy corn flavor to soups, stews, and sautés and are especially delicious cooked with corn.
Sautéed Corn Mushrooms with
Fresh Corn and Fried Sage
Wagmíza na Wagmíza Aícˇhagˇe na Phežíhˇota Cˇheúŋpapi
Serves 4 to 6
This dish reminds me of the year I spent in Mexico, where corn is celebrated in all of its forms. Corn smut or maize mushrooms are considered a delicacy and it’s no wonder. They impart a sweet, earthy corn flavor to soups, stews, and sautés and are especially delicious cooked with corn.
- 3 tablespoons sunflower oil
- 3 cups diced fresh mushrooms
- 1 cup corn mushrooms or dried, reconstituted wild mushrooms, such as chanterelles
- 1/4 cup chopped wild onions or shallots
- 2 cups sweet corn kernels
- 1 cup soaked and cooked hominy, (see chefs note below)
- 1/4 cup Corn Stock (recipe below), or mushroom soaking water
- Pinch crushed juniper
- 2 teaspoons chopped sage
- 2 teaspoons chopped mint
- Pinch salt
- 6 sage leaves
Film the skillet with 2 tablespoons of the oil and set over medium heat and sauté the fresh mushrooms with the corn mushrooms until very dark, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the onions and continue cooking until the onion is translucent. Then add the corn kernels and hominy. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the fresh corn is just cooked and tender, about 5 minutes; then stir in the corn stock, chopped sage, and mint and cook until the liquid reduces by half. Season with salt and juniper to taste.
In a small skillet, heat the remaining oil over high flame and fry the sage leaves until dark and crisp, about 15 to 30 seconds per side.
Serve the corn hot or at room temperature topped with the fried sage leaves.
• If you know a corn farmer and can get your hands on fresh corn mushrooms, by all means use those in this dish. Otherwise, use frozen or canned and drained corn, mushrooms available in Mexican and specialty stores and online.
•To reconstitute wild mushrooms, simply cover with warm water and let sit until plump. Drain, reserving the soaking water, and squeeze out any excess moisture. Use as you would fresh mushrooms.
Chef’s Note: To prepare hominy or dried corn, soak in water to cover overnight. Drain and turn into a pot and cover with water by 2 inches. Set over medium-high heat, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the kernels are tender, 10 to 25 minutes. Drain and proceed with the recipe.
Save the corncobs after you’ve enjoyed boiled or roasted corn on the cob or you’ve cut the kernels for use in a recipe. Put the corncobs into a pot and cover with water by about 1 inch. Bring to a boil and partially cover. Reduce the heat and simmer until the stock tastes “corny,” about 1 hour. Discard the cobs. Store the stock in a covered container in the refrigerator or freezer.
Want more Thanksgiving sides? Check out Chef Sean’s recipe for squash and apple soup with fresh cranberry sauce.
Buffalo Bird Woman tells of gathering mape di, or “corn smut,” or, to many of us, corn truffles. Parboiled and then dried while still on the cob, they were cooked with the corn. “We looked upon the mape di that grew on the corn ear as a kind of corn, because it was borne on the cob,” she told her biographer, Gilbert Wilson.
Some farmers call this “devil’s corn” but it’s known as huitlacoche, or corn truffles or “black gold,” in Mexico. The fungus lives in the soil and can bloom on fresh cobs just as they ripen. Gray and bulbous, the fungus can be lofted easily into the air and onto the corn plants, overtaking a field overnight.
As I traveled through Mexico, I found corn smut in markets and cooked it with poblano chilies to fill tacos and quesadillas and to toss into soups. In our region, corn smut was dried and used as a seasoning in soups and stews. Corn smut is high in the amino acid lysine and when combined with corn increases the protein content. But there’s every reason to enjoy it fresh in a sauce or baked into corn breads.
The flavor of this corn mushroom is sweet, savory, and earthy, so, if you’re lucky enough to know a corn farmer whose crop has been “hit,” by all means use the fresh. Because it’s so perishable, it’s hard to find fresh, but it is available, canned or frozen, in most Mexican and specialty food stores.
From The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen by Sean Sherman with Beth Dooley (University of Minnesota Press, 2017) Copyright 2017 Ghost Dancer, LLC. All rights reserved. Used by permission of the University of Minnesota Press.