Introduction: Avgolemono - Lemon Chicken Soup
So easy to make, so filling, so good!
The trickiest part of this soup is pronunciation, but after you've said it a few times, you'll get the hang of it. AVE (as in 'have') GO (just as it sounds) LEMON (just as it sounds) NO (just as it sounds)
Put it all together, and you have AVE-GO-LEMON-O.
Some people pronounce the ending as LEH-MAH-NO, but whatever gets it in the bowl works fine for me.
Contrary to what looks somewhat gourmet, this soup is amazingly easy to make, and much of the prep can be done ahead of time. Recipe is courtesy of Cooking Light.
The first time I served a bowl of it to my husband, he asked what it was. I simply looked it up online, and read the opening text from the Wikipedia internet page, verbatim:
"Avgolemono or egg-lemon (from Greek: αυγολέμονο or αβγολέμονο, is a family of Mediterranean sauces and soups made with egg and lemon juice mixed with broth, heated until they thicken. In Arabic, it is called tarbiya or beida bi-lemoune 'egg with lemon'; and in Turkish terbiye. In Sephardic Jewish cuisine, it is called agristada or salsa blanco, and in Italian cuisine, bagna brusca, brodettato, or brodo brusco. It is also widely used in Balkan cuisine."
He then asked "Well, what is it in America?" I replied "Chicken soup."
Step 1: Gather Your Ingredients
During the early part of Winter, we can count on Meyer lemons showing up in the local grocery stores. A big fan of the lower acidity, and the wonderfully fragrant scent, we try to impart the Meyer into many dishes during this time.
Gather the following ingredients:
2 teaspoons of olive oil
1 whole onion (chop and measure 1 cup of onion)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 - 32 oz. carton of low-sodium chicken broth
1 - 14.5 oz. can of chicken broth (regular or low-sodium)
* A NOTE ABOUT BROTH * If you were making an authentic Avgolemono, you would make your own broth, using whole chickens, carrots, celery and onions. Consider doing so when you have plenty of time, it is absolutely worth it. For this recipe, and ease of preparation, we are using purchased broth.
1/2-3/4 cup uncooked long-grain rice (consider Basmati), or stick to Greek tradition, and use Orzo pasta!
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (consider Meyer lemons if available)
2 teaspoons of cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 cups shredded, cooked chicken breast - SEE STEP 4
2 Tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley *
2 Tablespoons of freshly torn basil *
*HERB NOTE - If you do not have basil or parsley, Cilantro makes a fine substitute
Step 2: Mise En Place!
Mise en place (pronounced MEEZ-ON-PLAHS) is a French phrase that applies to my style of cooking, though I only recently learned there was actually a term for what I thought was my obsession with tiny bowls, specific measurements and tidy line-up of ingredients before proceeding to cook. I'm not such a nut after all!
Translated as "put in place", mise en place is definitely a much more convenient way of cooking, at least for me, than having umpteen bottles, cans and miscellaneous packaging strewn about my prep area.
Image 1.) So, let's measure and set aside the following:
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup of uncooked long-grain rice. Soak in water if using Basmati
Image 4.) Squeeze a lemon, or two, to achieve 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Check better supermarkets in your area for Meyer lemons, which are much less acidic than standard lemons
- Not sure how to do it? Click the link below!
- How to Juice a Lemon - By Instructables Author Paige Russell
Whisk the following in a bowl, and set aside. This will be your cream sauce.
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
- 1/3 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons of cornstarch
- 1 large egg, freshly beaten
Image 6.) Prep the chicken
- If you are in a big hurry, you can always use pre-cooked rotisserie chicken
- If you have time, consider making your own shredded chicken. See step 4 for instructions.
- Refrigerate the shredded, cooked chicken until the recipe calls it back into play later on.
Drag out that big, heavy Dutch oven
- If you don't have a Dutch oven, you should seriously consider begging, borrowing, or stea___, no, wait. Don't do that. Do what you can, save your pennies, and invest in one. Your soups, stews, sauces and more will never be the same. You needn't spend a fortune to buy one, as mine is a brand that is quite fine, and was not as expensive as others.
Step 3: Prep the Veggies
Peel and dice up several cloves of garlic.
Peel and chop enough white or yellow onion to equal one cup
Pick the leaves from the herb you've chosen. I am using cilantro.
Chop, shred, or otherwise dismember the leaves.
Step 4: Prep and Cook the Chicken
You may also use a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Pour a tablespoon or so of olive oil on a baking sheet.
Clean and prep chicken breasts, removing tenderloin and all that icky stuff my niece calls 'doingy things'.
Place the chicken breast on the baking sheet, and give it a swirl.
Turn the chicken over, and swirl it again. Salt and pepper if desired.
Bake until a meat thermometer reaches 180 degrees, the safe cooking temperature for chicken.
Remove from the oven, allow to cool.
Shred the chicken breasts with your fingers, or use two forks with tines facing opposite directions, pulling at the breast to shred it.
Keep the chicken breast refrigerated until it is time to add it to the soup, especially if soup prep is going slowly.
Step 5: Saute the Veggies
Pour 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil into a Dutch oven over medium heat.
Allow the oil to heat up just a bit, then add the chopped onions.
Add minced garlic and allow the veggies to saute for about two minutes.
Step 6: Add Chicken Broth, Bring to a Boil, Add Rice
Add the carton of chicken broth
Add the can of chicken broth.
Allow the soup to come to a boil.
Rinse and drain the rice if you chose to soak it.
Stir in the rice, reduce the heat, and simmer for approximately 15 minutes.
Add the pre-cooked chicken, stir well.
Now is the time to add a pinch of oregano, if you please. You could also use basil.
Step 7: Add Lemon Cream Sauce
Since you have already created the lemon cream sauce by combining the egg, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and corn starch from step 2, you will now quickly whisk the sauce into the soup. Add only a little bit at a time, whisking the soup very well as you do. Keep whisking. You don't want to make egg drop soup, you want the lemon, egg cream sauce to become the thickening agent, not leave clumps.
You may also wish instead to add a bit of the soup to the cream sauce, again, whisking well as you do, then pour the mixture back into the pot. Mixture will thicken, and rice will be done in about three minutes.
Step 8: Stir, Top With Herbs, and Serve!
Stir well, and savor the scents!
You may need a little more chicken broth if you were heavy-handed with the cornstarch.
This soup is an excellent dish to serve to company, and is well-received.
It will thicken slightly after being refrigerated overnight, but I am here to say, it makes a great breakfast!
Some people actually enjoy this soup in a cold state.
Step 9: Nutritional Information
When prepared as instructed in this tutorial, the nutritional information is as follows, according to Cooking Light, who so graciously provides this helpful detail with their recipes.
Serving size is assumed to be 1 1/2 cups per person.
CALORIES - 269
FAT - 7 grams (1.5 g. saturated, 3.5 mono, 1.1 poly)
PROTEIN - 25.4 grams
CARBOHYDRATES - 25.7 grams
FIBER - 1.1 grams
CHOLESTEROL - 116 milligrams
IRON - 2.1 milligrams
SODIUM - 541 milligrams
CALCIUM - 54 milligrams