It's a well established truth that chicken soup, a dish prominent in so many cultures, is a balsam for most emotional and physical ails. It's a medicine for scratchy colds, a motherly hug for the lonely and pure comfort for the soul.
In Greece chicken soup is married to a sauce, or thickening technique, that has become popular in all places reached by the Greek diaspora: avgolemono, or egg and lemon. It's a sauce that elevates many classic Greek dishes and can be also used to thicken soups, while adding at the same time the lemony zest that must run in our DNA. [It's true - Greek cooking and lemons: big, bizzare love story!] You can make avgolemono soup just with chicken broth and out of carton for that matter, but if you can afford a couple of lazy hours it is absolutely worth it to make the real deal and enjoy real broth and tender chicken in your soup.
Kotosoupa Avgolemono - Chicken Soup with Egg and Lemon
- 1 whole chicken, preferably organic
- 1 white onion, peeled and halved
- 1 carrot, peeled
- 1 celery stick
- 1-2 heaped tbs of salt (or to taste)
- Cold water enough to cover chicken, about 3 liters
- 2/3 cup short grain rice
- 2 egg yolks
- Juice of 2 lemons
- 1 tablespoon corn starch
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to season
- Chopped parsley or dill to garnish (optional)
- Prepare your chicken. Remove giblets, twine, etc. Some people rinse chickens, some don't; you do you. I tend to rinse with white vinegar inside a big bowl, to keep my sink relatively cleaner and to remove any raw chicken smell. Anyway you rinse, if you do, pat your chicken with kitchen tissue and then put inside a big bot. Cover completely with water. Add the vegetables and 1 or 2 tablespoons of salt.
- Bring to an easy boil on the stove. During the first quarter or so of boiling, check the pot and remove the unsightly grey foam that has surfaced with a slotted spoon. Then cover the pot and let simmer for 1.5 or 2 hours, preferably 2 if you have an organic chicken.
- In the meantime separate the eggs and let the yolks come to room temperature while the chicken is simmering.
- When it's time, remove the chicken with the help of two spatulas or other helpful kitchen tools. It will very likely fall apart; not to worry. We haven't overcooked anything. The chicken will be tender and the broth tastier. The chicken can cool off on a plate while you remove the veggies and fish out any bones or chicken pieces that fell off. You can also sieve the broth if you want, but I tend to be impatient at this point! I do taste for salt though, to get an idea about how much I will need to season later.
- Add the rice and cook for about 15'.
- Turn off the stove and let the soup cool down a bit while you mix the lemon juice with the corn starch in a small bowl. Then whisk the egg yolks very well inside a medium bowl until they're creamy and slowly add the lemon juice/corn starch mixture.
- Now comes the tricky part - the avgolemono magic! We have to start adding hot liquid very gradually, so that we don't cook our egg & lemon mixture. Equipped with a ladle start with very little liquid from the soup, 2 tablespoons, or so. Pour it inside the egg mixture while stirring steadily and continuously with a whisk or wooden spoon. Now add a little more liquid and keep stirring, then a little more, and so on and so forth. Non-stop mixing and gradually adding soup liquid will 'prepare' the egg mixture to combine with the broth without turning into scrambled eggs.
- When you have a good and warm enough amount of egg-lemony soup in your mixing bowl pour the mix into the rest of the soup inside the pot and keep stirring until well incorporated.
- Turn on your stove to the lowest setting and let it cook for 5-6 minutes, stirring often.
- Season with salt (if needed) and lots of freshly ground black pepper.
- Shred the chicken. Serve the soup in bowls and add chicken pieces. You can garnish with some parsley or dill for presentation, but if the kid in you prevails they will not want tiny green bits in their soup, let's be honest. And this soup is all about making you feel like a pampered child.