Cascada: A Cut Above

I am an unabashed soup fiend. Brothy, creamy, hot or cold, I love the liquid food. I ascribe this to my mother’s soup making skills and the fact that all winter, when I came into the house from school – cheeks stinging from the wind, I would find a hot pot of soup on the wood burning stove. A rotation of chicken noodle, vegetable, and beef barley, I loved them all and would immediately thaw my frozen hands on a full mug.

Yet, my Granny Celia held the title as best soup maker for her simple potato soup. With magic I have yet to conjure correctly, Granny would peel the skins from her potatoes using a 10-inch kitchen knife creating long continuous ribbons and then dice them into perfect cubes. She transformed milk, butter, potatoes, onion, salt and pepper into a sublimely satisfying soup that was always served with soft white bread and creamy butter that never saw the inside of a refrigerator.

I didn’t think a mere potato could reach higher until I encountered a remarkable trick of knifery – the cascada cut that the Spanish use routinely to thicken soups and stews. To make the cut, one slides a knife into the raw potato and then pries the piece outward, snapping the uncut edge of the potato. This broken edge exudes more starch than does a regular clean cut. That starch serves to thicken the soup base without need for a roux. Once you have gotten it down, test out the magic of this technique in a simple but delicious Potato Soup with Chorizo and Kale.