El Conquistqdor Francisco de Orellana

El Conquistqdor Francisco de Orellana
The Conquistador who put the Amazaon baisn "on the map"....Francisco Orellana

Friday, April 20, 2012

Mignon's Locro, the locro that almost never was

By Lance Brashear

Those who know the story of the conquest and founding of Quito – at least the popular version – know that the Incan general who resisted the Spanish Conquerors reportedly hid a vast treasure that was never discovered.

Mignon Plaza is familiar with the story. As the owner of Hacienda San Agustin de Callo - a hacienda built from the sizeable remains of an Incan Palace from the late 15th or early 16th century in Cotopaxi Province - she jokes that she, too, has never found the long lost treasure, even though Incan royalty most likely visited and temporarily inhabited the site of her hacienda.

In recent years the Hacienda of San Agustin de Callo (www.incahacienda.com) has become one of the region’s premier lodgings. Mignon has set about creating her own treasure, restoring the family farm – complete with a dining room enclosed by original Incan walls - to become a luxury hacienda and has been featured in publications like National Geographic and Food and Wine.

The cuisine at San Agustin is decidedly country with an Ecuadorian flair – breakfast offers 11 different preparations of eggs accompanied with jams made from local and native fruits. Guests also find select international influences to accompany the standard array of national dishes. During Food and Wine’s visit guests tried Timbuscha soup with garlic shrimp and a maracuyá meringue tart.

But Mignon’s most renowned dish, undoubtedly, is cheese locro – a golden potato soup that is not only her signature plate but perhaps a substitute for all the lost treasure never recovered since the conquest.

Chef Henry Richardson of Quito once brought internationally recognized chef, Sumito Estevez, of the Gourmet Channel, to San Agustin just to try Mignon’s locro. And Mignon says the Queen of Spain requested her recipes during a visit last year (such is the prestige of San Agustin).

Locro is one of Ecuador’s national dishes – a potato based soup for which Mignon’s preparation has become well-known. “The potatoes in this region are fantastic,” says Mignon. “You have the natural potatoes all year round here.”

How do you make locro? “Most of Ecuadorian food is made from a basic sauté,” explains Mignon. “Chopped onion, garlic in butter, achiote for coloring, and you cook the potatoes in that. Then you cover them in water. On the side you blend milk and cheese and you pour it in. That is basically a locro.”

Mignon’s variation on this traditional dish happened by way of discovery. “One day something terrible happened,” she says. As the staff was preparing a traditional cheese locro the milk separated. “This was just when we were serving lunch.” But it was fortuitous.

Mignon says that, “Suddenly - sometimes these brilliant things happen - I said lets blend it in the blender. Take the potatoes out, clean the potatoes, and blend the liquid to see if it integrates. And that is exactly what happened.”

Blenders are not generally used to prepare locro but the urgency of the moment necessitated an unconventional solution. “I just heated up the locro blended the whole liquid and this creamy thing came out. We never had to put cream again into the soup. It is blended in such a way - really well blended - that it has that texture though it does not have any cream.”

And now ordinary people and queens from distant lands come to Hacienda San Agustin de Callo try Mignon’s locro and most agree it is a treasure and reason enough for a return visit. And recognizing the serendipitous generosity of fate, Mignon does not keep her recipe a secret. She offers it to the world, often showing visitors how to prepare it at the hacienda.

If you would like try Mignon’s locro at the Hacienda San Agustin de Callo, located near Lasso in Cotopaxi Province, about one hour south of Quito, call or write to them in Quito at (02)290-6157/8 or in Lasso at (03) 271-9160, or write to reservations@incahacienda.com.




5 lbs potatoes.

50 gr. long spring onion chopped.

1 stick of parsley

500 gr. Cheese: fresh chees and a port salut or Dambo cheese)

20 mg. butter

20 mg. achiote


Chopped garlic



Cut potatoes into different sizes leaving some whole. Pour hot water and cover the potatos; cook until potatoes are soft. Sautee onion and garlic in butter and oil with achiote and salt. Add potatoes and water to the sautee and stir. Separately blend milk with the two shredded cheeses. Add to the potatoes and and stir until the soup has creamy texture. Serve with shredded cheeses to top and accompany with avocado and ají (hot sauce).

Ají preparation

Hot red peppers

Long white onion

A little bit of olive oil (optional)


Clean the peppers well removing seeds and veins. Blend or process with a little bit of water until you get consistency you like. Add chopped onion, salt, and olive oil. Optionally you can add some freshly cut coriander.

Chulpi preparation (toasted corn with vegetable oil)

Fry corn in an abundance of vegetable oil. Add white onion, garlic, and salt as desired.

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