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.”