comfort in a bowl

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Chef Felipe Alvarez ladles up

by Daniella Urbina
photographs by Nohemy Gonzalez

Nothing says comfort like a hearty bowl of soup. No matter the time of year, combining tasty ingredients together in one pot is not only easy, but a great way to experiment with different flavors in the kitchen. According to Chef Felipe Alvarez, regional chef for Mesilla Provisions in Las Cruces, the best part of making soup is putting a twist on familiar ingredients.

“I like to cook with ingredients that people can actually relate to,” he says.

Alvarez got into cooking after leaving a graphic design job in California. “I was looking at my computer screen one day and thinking, I don’t want to do this,” Alvarez recalls. “I wanted to be enjoying life; I wanted to be where the people were.”

This epiphany led Alvarez to a passion that related to food, particularly food design. Seeking advice from his dad, he decided to enroll in culinary school, despite not having much experience with food.

I didn’t know anything about cooking,” he laughs. “But it was perfect because it was a clean slate; I had so much to learn.”

During his culinary journey, Alvarez traveled back and forth between New Mexico and California, ultimately landing the position of executive chef at John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital in Indio, California. Later, he made the decision to return to New Mexico full time to be with family.

With an emphasis on using accessible ingredients, Alvarez’s dishes are bursting with flavor, but can also be easily replicated at home. Soup, he says, is one of his favorite dishes to make, simply because there is so much room for experimentation.

In a menu put together for Su Casa, Alvarez shares soup recipes for every taste—from a rich and hearty chowder to his unique spin on traditional albondigas soup. Check out Su Casa online—you’ll want to bookmark these recipes.

 

Bacon-Potato Corn Chowder

Makes 4–6 servings

1/2 lb. bacon, chopped

1/4 cup chopped onion

1 1/2 lbs. Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cubed

1 (14 oz) can cream-style corn

1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

Cook bacon in a skillet over medium heat until crisp, stirring occasionally. Keeping two tablespoons of bacon drippings in the pan, remove the remaining bacon and drain on a paper towel. Cook onions in bacon drippings until tender. Add potatoes to a large soup pot and cover with one inch of water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and cook uncovered until tender, about 10–15 minutes. Add corn, milk, salt, and pepper. Heat through. Stir in bacon, then serve.

 

Portuguese Kale Soup (caldo verde)

Makes 4–6 servings

1 lb. kale greens

1/4 cup olive oil

2 medium onions, thinly sliced

3 cloves garlic

1/2 lb. sausage of choice (Andouille, linguiça, kielbasa, chouriço), sliced

3 large potatoes, peeled and cubed 

2 quarts chicken stock

2 (15 oz) cans beans (cannellini, navy, kidney, garbanzo, or combination)

Splash of vinegar or mint or cilantro leaves for garnish

Wash kale and remove thick stems. Tear leaves thinly and set aside. Heat oil in large soup pot over medium heat and add onions and garlic. Sauté until fragrant. Add sliced sausage, potatoes, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook and stir onions about 5 minutes. Add kale, chicken stock, and beans. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for at least 30 minutes.

 

Albondigas Soup

Makes 4–6 servings

Albondigas (meatballs):

1 lb. ground beef

1 egg, beaten

2 tsp minced garlic

1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

1 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

1/4 cup rice

1/4 cup quinoa

Caldo (soup):

4 cups chicken broth

1/2 carrot, sliced

1 celery stalk, cut into chunks

1 (16 oz) can diced tomatoes

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp oregano

1/2 cup cilantro

1 potato, diced

Combine all albondigas ingredients together thoroughly. Form about 20–24 tight meatballs by rolling between your palms (about 1/2 inch wide). Brown in a hot pan and set aside.

In a large soup pot, add chicken broth, carrots, celery, tomatoes, cumin, oregano, and cilantro. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a mild simmer for 10 minutes. Gently drop meatballs and potatoes into the soup and bring to a boil so the meatballs cook quickly. Return to simmer and cook another 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

 

Spinach and Sausage Lentil Soup

Makes 4–6 servings

1 lb. sausage, such as chicken bratwurst, Andouille, or kielbasa

1 cup dried brown lentils, rinsed

1 (15 oz) can white beans (navy or cannellini), rinsed and drained

1 (32 oz) carton chicken broth

1 cup water

1 (14 oz) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes

6 cups fresh spinach

Crumbled goat cheese for garnish

Cook sausage in large pot over medium heat for five minutes, then drain. Stir in lentils, beans, broth, and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer while covered until lentils are tender, about 30 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and heat through for another five minutes. Stir in spinach until wilted. Top with goat cheese and serve.