-- By Merrill Maiano

America's passion for Mexican food has expanded beyond the burrito, and two New York City chefs are making every effort to "feed" the growing interest. Julieta Ballesteros of Mexicana Mama and Ramiro Jimenez of Noche, use their formidable culinary know-how to feature Mexican and Latin American ingredients in a wide array of captivating authentic dishes. more

  Ramiro Jimenez
Noche-New York, NY
huitlacoche soup
huitlacoche tacos
huitlacoche flan

Huitlacoche, a fungus peculiar to corn, is one of the delicacies you'll find on the menus at Mexicana Mama and Noche. Considered a blight by American farmers (it's called "corn smut" here) it's prized in Mexico as a seasonal delight. The spores of the fungus grow inside corn kernels, eventually taking over and forming grey-black lobes. They may look unsavory, but they bear the best characteristics of the corn and the fungus--a slightly sweet corn taste tempered by an earthy mushroom flavor reminiscent of nuts. Huitlacoche is available canned and frozen year-round in Mexican groceries and by mail order. If you're lucky enough to find it fresh, don't pass up the opportunity to use it in almost any recipe that calls for mushrooms--or you can take some direction from the pros and give these recipes a whirl.