In my previous post, I talked about huitlacoche, also known as the Mexican truffle; the traditional way to prepare it is to sauté with chopped onions and season with epazote herb; other ingredients, such as hot peppers or corn kernels, may be added. Sometimes it is hard to find fresh huitlacoche even in Mexico, because it is a fungus (corn smut) that will thrive depending on developing corn crops and a good rainy season, and it does not keep fresh for very long. I had a small can of huitlacoche (also spelled cuitlacoche), which I brought from Mexico last year, and I decided to cook it the traditional way, then use it as a filling for chicken breasts; a similar dish is usually made with tomatillo sauce, but I finished this eclectic version with my creamy zucchini sauce, to take advantage of surplus zucchini this season. Catering to my vegetarian daughter preferences saved some travail, by simply using plant-based “chicken-less breast” slices instead of regular chicken breasts.
Chicken Breasts with Huitlacoche (Vegetarian Option)
– Pechugas de Pollo con Huitlacoche (Opción Vegetariana)
Ingredients (for two portions)
2 chicken breast pieces; boneless and skinless OR 4 slices plant-based chicken-less breasts
4 oz (120 g) melting cheese (such as Chihuahua*, friulano or gouda); sliced
1/3 cup plus 3 tbsp vegetable oil with mild taste, such as safflower
1 can (7oz) huitlacoche
1 white onion; peeled
½ cup corn kernels (fresh, frozen or canned)
1 sprig epazote (if available, or omit); washed
1 large zucchini; washed and ends removed
2 jalapeño peppers, or 3 serrano peppers (or to taste); washed, stems and seeds removed
1 clove garlic; peeled
1 tsp salt, or to taste
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
I had a 7-oz can of Monteblanco™ brand huitlacoche, which comes already seasoned with onions, jalapeño peppers, and epazote:
Prepare huitlacoche filling – If using fresh epazote, remove leaves from stem; discard stem, slice leaves, and reserve. Slice onion in half; reserve one half for sauce, and finely chop the other half. Warm up one tablespoon of oil in a frying pan over medium heat; add chopped onion and sauté until partially translucent, then add the corn kernels and huitlacoche:
The huitlacoche out of the can looked good, with some texture and not completely black. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for two to three minutes. Add reserved epazote (if using), stir all together, remove from heat, and reserve.
Prepare creamy sauce – Cut zucchini into three or four pieces and place in a saucepan along with the hot peppers, garlic clove and reserved half onion; at this point, these ingredients may be roasted over medium heat, or boiled, which is what I did, by adding enough water to cover vegetables (photo below, left). Bring to a boil over high heat (photo below, right):
After cooking for five minutes, remove from heat, and drain water. Place all ingredients from the pan in a blender jar, add vinegar, and season with salt (photo below, left). Process in the blender for about one minute, then gradually add one third of a cup of vegetable oil, until smooth and creamy (photo below, right):
Reserve zucchini creamy sauce.
Prepare protein – If using chicken breasts, cut each piece horizontally into two uniform slices:
For vegetarian option, I used President’s Choice™ “Chicken-less Breasts”, which already look like sliced chicken breast fillets:
For either type of protein, warm up the last two tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add breast slices and cook for five minutes per side:
Remove pan from heat and reserve.
Assemble dish – In a baking tray with rim, place two pieces of breast next to each other (cut side up for chicken, or flat side up for plant-based). Divide huitlacoche filling and cheese slices to top them (photo below, left). Cover with the other two pieces of breast (cut side down/flat side down), then pour reserved zucchini sauce to completely coat (photo below, right):
Bake at 350ºF (180ºC) for twenty to twenty five minutes, until heated through. Plate breasts, coating generously with sauce. They may be served with a side of Mexican style white rice, or with refried beans, as shown below:
When sliced, the delicious huitlacoche and corn filling is revealed:
It was an absolutely riveting experience to search for sources for huitlacoche on line:
I found a grocer called “Chile Mojo”, based in Australia, that carries the Monteblanco™ canned huitlacoche (in a larger presentation than mine, enough for four portions); check it out at: https://www.chilemojo.com.au/products/monteblanco-seasoned-cuitlacoche-420gm
Then I looked on Amazon.com, and found several other brands, which I have not tried myself, but from the reviews, Goya™ is not that good (“looks and tastes like mud” said a reviewer); La Costeña™ got positive comments such as “So delicious!!” and “The huitlacoche was excellent” (although this reviewer could hardly keep his/her serenity for the rest of the comment, because the can had arrived all dented). For your convenience, click on the image below for this product, available on Amazon™. DISCLAIMER: As an Amazon Associates Program affiliate, I might receive a small commission for purchases originated from the link below, at no extra cost to you:
And finally, just an FYI (For Your Information): I came across “Oregon Mushrooms“, a mushroom and gourmet food company in the US that ships internationally. They carry frozen huitlacoche, which I thought was brilliant, but unfortunately it was out of stock when I checked this link. I thought it was an interesting business to mention as an FYI, but I have never tried purchasing anything from them, so I have no idea if their products are good, or their deliveries reliable.
*About Chihuahua cheese: It is a variety of Mexican cheese, from the Northern state of Chihuahua. It is an excellent cheese for melting, originally made in the shape of bricks by Mennonite groups in that region. As I mentioned in a previous post, in a recent trip to Leamington, Ontario, I found Canadian made, Chihuahua style cheese:
The flavour and texture of Chihuahua cheese are similar to those of Italian friulano cheese; a not-as-close second option, but still tasty for this recipe, is gouda cheese. NOTE: For a fully vegan meal, skip cheese altogether.
I am sharing my recipe at Thursday Favourite Things #456, with Bev @ Eclectic Red Barn, Pam @ An Artful Mom, Katherine @ Katherine’s Corner, Amber @ Follow the Yellow Brick Home, Theresa @ Shoestring Elegance and Linda @ Crafts a la Mode.