Friday, March 11, 2011

Locro de papas

I got this wonderful recipe from (where else?) Orangette. It’s a potato soup, but vamped up with annatto seeds, cheese and avocado! Annatto seeds may a little tricky to find, but I got mine from Central Market. And since there is no lactose-free queso fresco, I used a 2-cup package of Lactaid’s lactose-free cottage, which I strained in cheesecloth overnight. Once I added it to the soup, I decided it was fluid enough, so I didn’t add the lactose-free milk. That being said, I think you should make it with 6 cups of water instead of 7, then add the cup of milk if you feel the consistency warrants it. This soup is hearty and warming, and the avocado is a touch of genius. The Engineer said this was probably my best soup ever, and I’m inclined to agree. (The recipe as written makes about 6 servings.)

2 tsp annatto (achiote) seeds
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 ½ lb russet (baking) potatoes
1 medium yellow onion , chopped
rounded ½ tsp ground cumin
2 ¼ tsp salt
a few grinds black pepper
6 cups water
1 ¼ cups coarsely grated queso fresco or queso blanco (or lactose-free cottage cheese, strained overnight)
1 cup lactose-free whole milk
2 firm-ripe avocados

In a small saucepan or skillet with a light-colored bottom, heat the annatto seeds and oil over low heat, swirling the pan often, until the oil is bright red-orange and barely simmering, about 2 minutes. (If you pan has a dark bottom, you won’t be able to gauge the color change.) Remove the pan from the heat, and set aside to rest for 10 minutes.

While the annatto oil is resting, fill a large bowl with cold water. Peel the potatoes and cut them into ¾-inch chunks, dropping them into the bowl of water as you go. The water will help to prevent discoloration.

Pour the annatto oil through a fine-mesh sieve into a large (7-8 quart) pot, discarding the seeds. Warm the oil over medium-high heat, and add the onions and half of the potatoes. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is softened, about 4-5 minutes. Add the cumin, salt, and pepper, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute more. Add the water, stir to scrape up any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pot, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the potatoes are very tender, about 25-30 minutes; then mash the potatoes into the broth. Remove the remaining potatoes from their bowl of water, drain them well, and add them to the pot. Simmer, partially covered, until they are tender, about 20 minutes more. Stir in the cheese and the milk, and increase the heat to bring the pot to a simmer again, stirring. Remove from the heat.

Cut the avocados into small cubes or slices. Ladle the soup into bowls, top with avocado, and serve.

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