Lekker: Avgolemono

Avgo-what? AV-GO-LEMONO. I know, I still can't really say it right. Apparently you don't really pronounce the "g" as a "g", it's more like a "y" sound that exists in Greek. Since I do not actually know Greek, I'm sort of at a loss--but I'm pronouncing it "av-yo-lem-ONO" in my head.

I assume you've gathered by this point that this dish involves lemon and that would be correct. It's a traditional Greek soup consisting of chicken and rice (or orzo) in an egg-lemon broth. Yeah, yeah, I'm at it again with soups. LOOK! I'm trying to slim back down after the sheer overindulgence of the holidays, and soups and salads are the best way to do that. Deal with it. Plus, it's snowy and cold up here and I slipped on a patch of ice on Friday, falling and cracking my tailbone--so I needed some comfort.

Plus, I had some rotisserie chicken left over from my Thai Chicken Noodle Soup the other night, and ballin' on a budget means nothing goes to waste around here.

I had this again next-day with a small Greek salad and some crusty bread. Quiet, warm comfort at its finest.

makes about 4 servings

What You Need
4 tablespoons butter or olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced finely
1 leek, white and light green parts only, washed well and sliced down the middle, then sliced into thin half-moons
1/2 cup uncooked orzo or Arborio rice (I used orzo because it's what I had on hand, and I like it better than rice--in case you don't know, orzo is actually pasta in a small elongated shape similar to rice. It made an appearance in my Italian Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup, but I think the next time I make this dish I'll try rice.)
1/3 cup white wine (Totally optional and I highly doubt it's traditionally Greek, but if you know me at all of course I had a glass of white wine in hand while I was cooking--Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc, if you must know--so in it goes.)
5 cups of chicken broth (or stock, whatever) plus 1 cup water
2 cups shredded precooked chicken
3 eggs
4 tablespoons lemon juice, fresh squeezed if you have it (Cut it down to 3 tablespoons if you don't like things really lemony--but if you don't like lemon why the heck are you making this anyway???)
Salt 'n peppah, to taste

What You Do
1. Okidoke let's get this show on the road! In a large stock pot over medium heat, melt the first two tablespoons butter or oil. Throw in your leek and onion and cook for about 5 minutes until things start to get all golden and translucent and shit. This is about the time I throw the wine in too and cook it down until all the wine has evaporated and been absorbed.

Now, you kinda gotta multi-task here because you have to cook the orzo at the same time, too. In a separate pot, melt the other two tablespoons of butter/oil over medium heat and throw in the orzo. WHAT?! Isn't it going to burn? No, calm your jets guys. Cooking raw orzo over medium heat in butter or oil toasts it, giving it a beautiful golden colour and nutty, toasted flavour. (Works for rice too.) This is an extra step and of course you don't have to do it, you can just toss the orzo and water in a pot and boil away--but I do it because it's easy and delicious. But yeah, once you're all nicely toasted (and the orzo is too, I suppose) pour in enough water to cover well and let boil for about 9 minutes to al dente perfection.

Some say you can just throw the raw orzo into the soup and let it cook in the broth. I don't like doing this, because pasta releases starch into the water it cooks in and I don't like that starch mucking up my silky perfect broth.

2. Shit, where were we? Oh, right. OK so the orzo is cooking away in the small pot and your onions and leeks have cooked away with the wine in the big pot. Now throw in the chicken broth and water and the shredded cooked chicken and let that simmer away gently. When the orzo is done, drain it and add to the big pot.

3. Now's the time to make the egg-lemon part. This is the only vaguely tricky part, but if you can do two things at once (whisk with one hand and pour with the other) you'll be fine. We'll be tempering the eggs--which means warming them up/cooking them gently before adding it to the hot broth so that they don't just scramble like Egg Drop Soup. That's ugly and gross. Do you want stringy threads of scrambled eggs in your soup? No, so pay attention!

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the three eggs together until frothy. One tablespoon at a time, whisk in the lemon juice until well incorporated. It should look frothy and creamy at this stage and a light yellow colour. Now with one hand, keep whisking steadily. With the other, slowly add in one ladleful of hot broth from the big pot. Do this two to three more times. Ta-dah! You've successfully tempered eggs. Now turn OFF the stove, and slowly pour THAT mixture into the big pot, whisking away. You're done.

DO NOT let it boil once you've added the egg/lemon mixture. It'll break and you'll get Egg Drop Soup. Be gentle when you reheat this the next day, too. Microwave on half power and stir often.

Enjoy, beauties, and dream of the warm and sunny Greek isles amidst all this chilly nonsense.
Posted on January 5, 2014 .