Shaker Herb and Cheddar Cheese Soup

Serves 8 to 12


This simple but satisfying herb-accented soup was inspired by the cooking of America’s Shakers, known for their abundant use of fresh herbs. Make it in the spring and summer when fresh herbs are abundant; dried just won’t do here. Use any combination of tender herbs like tarragon, chervil, sorrel, dill, chives, and/or my personal favorite, lovage; the more the better for a fragrant, cheesy soup. I prefer gold potatoes for their warm color and buttery flavor.


  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 leeks, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 pound gold potatoes (2 to 3 medium potatoes), peeled and roughly cut
  • 1 quart chicken stock, purchased or homemade
  • Fine sea salt, grated nutmeg, and ground white pepper to taste
  • 3 cups milk
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup chopped lovage, tarragon, chervil, sorrel, dill, and/or chives
  • 2 cups shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese


  • Sauté the onion and leeks in the butter in a large, heavy casserole dish until translucent. Add the potatoes, chicken stock, salt, nutmeg, and pepper to taste. Bring to the boil, cover, and reduce to a simmer for 35 to 40 minutes or until the potatoes are soft when pierced. Stir in the milk and cream.
  • Transfer the mixture to a blender and puree until smooth, straining for an even smoother texture. Transfer back into the soup pot, add the herbs and stir to combine. Serve each portion topped with a small handful of cheddar and more herbs to stir into the soup.
  • To store, cool the soup to room temperature before refrigerating for up to 5 days.

Note: To make the richest full-bodied stock that will gel as it cools–a sign that the broth is loaded with collagen, add about 1 pound of chicken feet. For those living in Philadelphia, chicken feet are available at Reading Terminal Market. Look for them in markets especially those catering to a Black, Latino, Asian, or Caribbean clientele.