Anatomy of a Classic

Potato Soup for the Soul

Savory mushroom pesto elevates
the flavor in Blackberry Mountain chef Joey Edwards’s warming recipe

Photo: Johnny Autry

Chefs are who they are, which means they usually can’t resist fancying up even the simplest dish. The results can be delicious, but the recipes often don’t translate easily for the home cook. A welcome exception: the potato soup dreamed up by Joey Edwards, the executive p.m. chef of Three Sisters restaurant at Blackberry Mountain in Tennessee, a second resort from the family that started nearby Blackberry Farm.

Like so many great recipes, it starts with a food memory. Edwards’s family moved from South Carolina to the Raleigh-Durham area and eventually to Willard, North Carolina, when he was a teenager. He has seven brothers and sisters, and since Edwards showed an early affinity for cooking, his mother often let him take over the family kitchen. “If I was not going to burn the house down,” he says, “she was like, ‘Go for it, Joey.’” 

He watched a ton of Food Network and was always experimenting, but he also learned to appreciate reliable, inexpensive joys, including ones that came from a can. “Even when I was getting into food, I was not above eating a can of potato soup,” he says.

That evolved into something he would riff on over the years, such as adding bacon to make it smoky and raising the level of creaminess. He eventually landed on a vegetarian version in which a charred mushroom and greens pesto stands in for the bacon, with whole cipollini or pearl onions to give the dish more structure and visual appeal. The final touch is tang from crème fraîche, which provides richness and balance.  

The mushrooms and greens can be roasted in the oven or cooked on an outdoor grill. Either way, you want to cook them hot and fast so they get a little charred at the edges. You can then use a food processor to chop them, but it’s easy enough by hand, which gives the pesto a slightly rustic texture. Halve or quarter the potatoes, depending on their size, and simmer them until they are tender and the edges get a little rounded, but don’t let them cook to mush. “You do have to be mindful of the temperature as it simmers,” Edwards says. Then it’s only a matter of adding a big dollop of the pesto and letting it loosen up a bit in the soup. Shake the bowl a touch, and it will marble into something that’s beautiful enough for a dinner party without straying too far from its roots. “At the end of the day,” he says, “potato soup is a homey thing.”

photo: Johnny Autry


  • For the soup

    • 1 tbsp. butter

    • 8 cipollini onions or 8 oz. pearl onions, peeled

    • 8 small Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and quartered

    • 2 cups crème fraîche

    • 2 cups water

    • 1 head roasted garlic (instructions follow)

    • 1 tsp. kosher or other flaky salt (if using table salt, cut in half)

    • 4 sprigs fresh thyme

    • 1 bay leaf

  • For the pesto

    • 1 cup sliced mushrooms

    • ½ cup good olive oil (Tuscan if possible)

    • Salt and black pepper, to taste

    • ½ bunch dandelion greens or ½ head radicchio with leaves separated

    • 1 small bunch green onion tops, thinly sliced

    • ¼ bunch parsley, chopped

    • 1 head roasted garlic (instructions follow)

    • ½ cup finely shredded aged Gouda


  1. For the soup: Melt butter in a small pot over medium heat and blister the onions, stirring occasionally and allowing the butter to brown but not burn. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine. Simmer for about 30 minutes until the potatoes start to break down. The soup should thicken from being reduced and from the potato starch. Remove thyme stems and bay leaf. Taste to see if the soup needs more salt.

  2. For the pesto: Preheat oven to 400°F. Toss mushrooms in olive oil, salt, and pepper, and then do the same with the greens. Roast both on a sheet pan until mushrooms and greens start to take on some color and crisp around the edges, about 5 to 7 minutes. Or you can char the greens directly on a grill and use a grill basket or pan to char the mushrooms.

  3. To serve: Spoon soup into bowls, making sure each serving
    has potato pieces and an onion or two. Top with a heap of the pesto and stir slightly to marble the soup.

  4. Tip: To roast garlic, slice the top off of the heads and wrap them both together in aluminum foil with 2 tbsp. olive oil. Cook in a 300°F oven for about 1 hour, until garlic is completely soft, then squeeze garlic out of the skins.

Meet the Chef: Joey Edwards

Raleigh, North Carolina

Early career goal: 
“I wanted to be in a band. I was gonna be a rock star.”

Motto for success: 
“You have to slow down to speed up.”

Favorite cooking vessel: 
“I think it’s the most romantic thing to cook in a copper pot.”