Soup Season: Latin-influenced chowder

You wouldn't think chowder could get a facelift. But at Cuatro - a South Loop restaurant focusing on "New" Latin cuisine - Chef Edie Jimenez has done just that.

"It's both vegetarian and hearty. We use a little bit of condensed milk which gives it sweetness; evaporated milk and heavy whipping cream. Plus all the ingredients are fresh, and the corn is roasted, which gives it a different dimension," said Edie Jimenez, Cuatro.

He first starts off by adding chopped white onions to melted butter, and sautees them for a few minutes, until translucent. Then, a rapid-fire progression of chopped red tomatoes.. celery.. and finely-diced jalapenos for a subtle note of heat; all of those veggies are stirred until they're slightly softened.

Tomato paste gives the soup its color, while roasted corn adds both texture and flavor. Again, he incorporates all of the ingredients, stirring constantly. Idaho potatoes are cubed and soaked in water. This keeps them white, but also helps to thicken the soup.

"We add that water with the potatoes, to thicken up the soup, because it already has a little starch in the water."

Once the potatoes have softened, he seasons the soup with salt and white pepper. Finally, the richness factor: a combination of condensed and evaporated milk.. plus a healthy addition of heavy cream to balance out the heat.

"When I cook, I like to have all dimensions of flavors. From hot, salty, sweet, sour and a little bit of bitterness to it."

The final flourish is a hit of dried epazote - a Mexican herb giving the soup another dimension, and adding to the allure of this vibrant, seasonal dish.

"Excellent for the wintertime."

The soup is also a good option for vegetarians- though the cream keeps it from being vegan.

2030 S. Wabash


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