This soup has an intriguing combination of flavors and a special ingredient that slowly bleeds into the liquid creating a rusty color. What is it? Annatto! Besides dying the soup, the ground seed lends a uniquely earthy flavor with a slight peppery note. Annatto can also be found in variety of cheeses and butter as a coloring agent.
Once some onions are sautéed and the annatto, along with cumin, are added to briefly toast, thick chunks of a few starchy russet potatoes are added to the pot. Milk, cilantro and a few pieces of chopped jalapeño are also added and allowed to simmer until the potatoes are tender. So the soup retains some texture, the potatoes are partially mashed with a potato masher, rather than pureeing the soup - if you prefer a silky soup though, I don't see why you couldn't stick an immersion blender into the pot and whirl away. To add some body, the soup is thickened slightly by tempering a lone egg yolk with a bit of the hot liquid and then whisking it back in and allowing the mixture to simmer for a few minutes.
While some chopped cilantro and jalapeño were natural additions to sprinkle on top, I would have never guessed what comes next. While I thought the ingredient was a little odd at first, Jeff and I both were pleasently surprised! The recipe calls for a few chopped hard-cooked eggs as one of the finishing touches - the firmer texture seemed to play well and the bit of richness from the yolks was a nice contrast to the light soup. I'm sure it would have been even better if we didn't have to miss out on one of the last toppings for the soup. It called for some creamy chopped avocado, but when I was at the market this morning to pick up a few other ingredients they had not gotten their shipment today or for the last few days either - next time!
Ecuadorian Potato Soup