A modern twist on Caldo de Queso con Papas is the second in my Potatoes Around The World recipe series for the Idaho Potato Commission. And a mighty fine, comforting soup it is. With a swirl of poblano crema, its touch of smoky green heat was just the ticket for St. Paddy’s Day, too. I debated whether to blend the pureed poblanos into the soup, but I wasn’t feeling it. Green soup for the mere sake of eating something green doesn’t appeal to me any more than green beer does. So the swirl won.
Truth be told, I was visiting my mom in Northwest Arkansas and had only very basic kitchen tools at my disposal, but what we love about soup is all you usually need is a single knife and a decent 3 quart or larger pot. And, in this case – a blender. Plus, this recipe doesn’t require any hard to find ingredients, so the local market had everything I needed and my basically empty refrigerator had a few stray bottles of beer from our last visit.
Among the strays was what looked to be a very fine craft beer called Cisco Grey Lady. Brewed on Nantucket, Massachusetts by Cisco Brewers, the artsy label indicated spicy notes and that the name “Grey Lady” comes from the nickname for the often-foggy island for which it is brewed. Further online investigation described it as a hazy, Belgian-style Wit which emits a complex, earthy nose with sophisticated notes, best paired with salad, fish, shellfish and also goes great with peppery style cheeses such as Monterey Pepper Jack and tangy style cheeses such as Brick, Edam and Feta. A perfect ingredient for a potato cheese soup, was my thought. And it was.
However, if you want to stay with the Mexican theme, I suggest Negra Modelo with its clean taste, sweet, caramel notes and slight smokiness – especially if you decide to incorporate the poblano crema into the soup rather than using it as a condiment.
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon sunflower oil
- 2 tablespoons butter, divided use
- ¼ teaspoon red chile pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 2 pounds Red Rose Idaho potatoes
- 1 craft beer of your choice*
- 1 cup low sodium vegetable or chicken stock
- 1 cup water
- 1 poblano (pasilla) chile
- 1 /4 cup half & half, divided use
- 6 ounces Monterey Jack, cheese, shredded
- ½ teaspoon sea salt and pepper to taste
- Garnish: chopped avocado, fresh cilantro and crumb
- Heat oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a heavy soup pot over medium high heat. Add the onions and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, Add minced garlic and cumin, cook for another minute. Add the beer. Remove the mixture to a blender and process until you have a smooth puree. Set aside.
- While the onions are cooking, peel the potatoes and cut into 1 inch cubes. After the onion mixture has been transferred to the blender, add the potatoes to the soup pot with another tablespoon of butter. Saute until potatoes are fragrant and turning golden.
- Add onion mixture back to the pot with the potatoes, along with one cup of stock and 1 cup water. Bring mixture to a simmer and cook until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Mash the potatoes thoroughly with a potato masher.
- While the potatoes are cooking, char the chile pepper in a skillet, over a gas flame or in the broiler until the skin is blackened. Put in a baggie or paper bag to steam for about 5 minutes. Then remove the skin and seeds. Resist the temptation to rinse the chile - water will dilute the wonderful smoky flavor of the chile. Chop the chile. Add to the blender with ¼ cup of half & half and puree.
- Whisk a cup of the warm soup into the half & half, then add to the pot with the grated cheese and whisk until blended. Add more broth or water if mixture is thicker than you prefer. Serve hot and garnish with cilantro and/or avocado and Queso Fresco crumbles.
*I used Nantucket's Cisco Brewers - Grey Lady Ale. If you prefer not to use beer, low sodium chicken or vegetable broth may be substituted.
And, for your food history lesson of the day: how did these versatile tubers get to Mexico, and why was Mexico unjustly accused of being responsible for the Irish potato famine?
Potatoes are indigenous to the Andean countries of South America. First cultivated in the Peruvian Andes 8,000 years ago, the potato was the major sustenance food of the region. Cultivated varieties traveled north to Central America and Mexico via the Spaniards explorers who were responsible for the exchange of so many plant species from country to country.
Potatoes were not grown much in Mexico until the mid-19th century, and did not become a crop of any importance until the 1950s, yet amazingly the yearly per capita consumption of spuds is nearly 38 pounds. In the decade between 1994 and 2004, potato consumption grew by 65%, with most potatoes sold as fresh produce, only 14% going toward the manufacture of chips, and even less to frozen products, which are still expensive in Mexico. The origins of the Irish potato famine is a long dissertation, if you’re interested in learning more, visit MexConnect.
Disclosure: I was compensated by the Idaho Potato Commission for developing this original recipe.