Avgolemono Soup

Please welcome Hank Shaw as he shares his quick and easy version of the Greek classic avgolemono soup, a chicken soup with lemon and egg. ~Elise

The mixture of eggs, lemon and hot broth is a classic combination in Greek cooking. And if there is a classic dish that highlights this combination, it is the chickeny avgolemono soup. Avgo-wha? Ah-vo-LEMEN-o, or at least that’s how I remember the Greeks at the local diner in New Jersey saying it. The “g” isn’t always pronounced.

Like gumbo, goulash or chili, there are untold versions of this soup. Some, like this one, have bits of chicken in them. Some start with a whole chicken and take hours. A few have nothing more than chicken broth and the egg-lemon sauce. Most, however, have a starch such as rice or orzo pasta.

The key to avgolemono is the egg-lemon sauce. It is what make this version of chicken soup special. What starts as a pretty ordinary mix of chicken, onions, pasta and broth becomes silky, tangy and unforgettable.

This is a weeknight version of avgolemono, one you can whip together in less than 30 minutes; some versions take all day. The only tricky part of this whole recipe is when you add the egg-lemon mixture: You need to temper the eggs so they don’t scramble when you add them to the hot broth. But this is not rocket science, and if you can whisk with one hand and pour with the other you are good to go. And if you can’t? Find a helper. Kids love to help cooking, so maybe ask your daughter or son to whisk while you pour. Or vice versa.

One thing about this soup: Never let it boil once you’ve added the egg-lemon mixture. The soup can break and you essentially get a Greek version of egg drop soup. Still edible, but ugly. Same goes for reheating leftovers: Do it gently, and don’t let the soup boil.

  • Prep: 10 minutes
  • Cook: 25 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 6-8.

Either rice or orzo pasta are fine here, so use whichever you prefer. And be sure to dice the chicken breast pretty small -- about 1/4 inch cubes -- so the meat cooks through in just a few minutes.

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 5 cups chicken stock, plus 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup orzo or rice
  • 1 pound skinless chicken breast, diced
  • Salt
  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 eggs
  • Fresh parsley for garnish

Method

1 Heat the olive oil in a medium pot and saute the onions over medium-high heat until they are soft and translucent, 4-5 minutes. While the onions are cooking, bring another pot of salted water to a boil and add the orzo or rice.

2 When the onions are ready, add the chicken stock and water and bring to a bare simmer. When the orzo or rice is nearly done — firm, but mostly cooked — drain the boiling water and add the pasta or rice to the chicken broth. Add the diced chicken breast to the pot. Let this cook 5-8 minutes, then taste the soup for salt.

3 Beat the eggs in a bowl. Whisking constantly, add the lemon juice to the eggs. You will need to temper the eggs before you add the egg-lemon mixture to the soup. It takes both hands to do this. With one hand, whisk the egg-lemon mixture vigorously. With the other, slowly pour in a ladle's worth of hot broth. Do this at least twice, and you can add as many ladle's worth of broth as you want to the mixture.

4 Turn the heat off the soup. Whisk the soup with one hand while you pour the hot egg-lemon mixture in with the other. Serve at once, garnished with parsley.

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