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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Locro de Papas

A few years ago, one of my dad's coworkers went to Ecuador and came back raving about a soup called Locro de Papas, for which she shared this recipe from Laylita. Dad passed this recipe on to his little soup fiend and I've had it sitting in my pantry for years now. A month or so ago, I decided to try it. We could NOT find achiote powder, which is also called annatto powder, or could be made from annatto seeds and I used too few potatoes, so, keeping that in mind, I attempted it again Sunday night. It was a perfect soup night--a storm had moved in and the plastic roof over part of the house magnified the sound of the rain until it was all we could hear. With blankets on the couch and Harry Potter movies being drowned out by the rain, James ventured over the bridge to a Whole Foods to buy a tiny little packet of annatto powder. Upon his return we started peeling and cubing potatoes, dicing onions, mincing garlic and cilantro and using the KitchenAid grater/slicer attachment to grate an entire block of Monterey Jack cheese.

Onions, garlic, cumin and achiote
The coated potatoes
 As soon as we add the achiote to the onions, garlic and cumin, everything turned bright red-orange and it soon smelled like Middle Eastern food. After adding a bit more oil to keep the onions from burning, they had softened up and we added the potato cubes and made sure they were coated with the refrito or base.

After mashing
We added the SEVEN CUPS of water (make sure you have a big pot!!!) and after the potatoes softened, we used out coated potato masher to mash up the potatoes. When mom and dad made this soup, they used an immersion blender to make the soup smoother, so it all depends on what you're looking for. Ours ended up chunky, and almost like a stew once it was served. We then added the cilantro and the cheese. The recipe only calls for 1 cup, but I used the entire block (it was a small block, but still more than a cup).

When the cheese had completely melted, we served it up. I added diced avocado, hot sauce and feta cheese on top. This isn't the most flavourful soup, so salt and pepper will need to be added, but I wouldn't bother adding it until you've served it--the potatoes seem to soak it up when it's still cooking. The hot sauce adds a nice kick and the feta adds to the creaminess. The avocado is fantastic in the soup, and even if you're not the biggest fan of avocados, I'd recommend trying them with the soup. It was a fantastic, filling meal that left us plenty of leftovers that heat up beautifully. Definitely a soup we will make again and again on cold days.
The final product

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