Avgolemono (Egg & Lemon) Soup
I’ve been obsessed with the idea of this soup for ages.
I love all things eggy and all things lemony. Put together, the rich mixture of tempered eggs and lemon juice gives this soup a decadent, creamy feel, and without any milk or cream.
I used to think of it as a rare restaurant treat—a complicated and mysterious miracle of science. How else could you add eggs to a simmering stock and end up with a smooth, velvety lemony broth, without separating the eggs into the messy striations of egg drop soup?
Once again Santa Barbara’s shortage of decent restaurants—of Greek restaurants, in this case—led me to take the miracle-working into my own hands. As with learning any new recipe, this started with demystifying it: it turns out there’s a very simple step to making such a luxurious broth.
By whisking a bit of the simmering soup stock into the egg-lemon juice (avgolemono) mixture, you can temper the eggs (as you would do for a custard) so you can gently pour them back into the soup without scrambling them.
It’s a comforting soup, especially when you toss in a handful of orzo or rice. I have a strange nostalgia for rice in soups, considering I don’t think I ever ate any as a kid. It was always either noodles—or just as often, matzah balls—for us. Maybe it comes from something that was definitely a childhood favorite: the “Chicken Soup with Rice” book-ette by Maurice Sendak, and the accompanying cassette tape, sung by Carole King. (Both still so good!)
I’ve actually only made this with orzo, though; it might not hold up to extra simmering as well as rice would, but it absorbs all of the flavors so well, as only tiny rice-grain-shaped pasta can. (And, unlike rice, orzo doesn’t continue absorbing liquid if you store your leftover soup in the fridge!)
Avgolemono is usually made with chicken stock and shredded cooked chicken. This makes it the perfect home for leftover roasted chicken, or storebought rotisserie chicken: a leftover chicken solution that rivals only enchiladas.
In the absence of shredded chicken, I’ve found that this soup remains its lovely self with chickpeas—especially already flavorful homemade dried chickpeas, soaked and cooked with olive oil, salt, and garlic—and is made even lovelier by the addition of kale.
(Canned chickpeas will still add protein, but they won’t add much in the way of flavor. The soup’s just not simmered for long enough; it’s done in less than 10 minutes!)
Chopped dill adds an extra sprinkle of greenery and a little boost of lemony freshness. But don’t let a lack of fresh herbs stop you from trying this out; it’s all optional, really, other than the stock, the lemon, and the eggs.
This is another recipe that Paula and I immediately filed away as a new weeknight dinner favorite. If you love lemons even half as much as we do, I’m guessing you’ll enjoy it, too.
Print this recipe. (PDF)
Avgolemono (Egg & Lemon) Soup
Active time: 15 minutes; Total time: 20 minutes.
~ 3-4 eggs
~ 4-5 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice (from 1 large lemon)
~ 6 cups chicken stock
~ ¾-1 cup orzo (or rice, but increase cooking time in step #2 to 25 min.)
~ salt, to taste
~ white pepper, to taste
~ ½ bunch kale, either Tuscan or curly kale, de-stemmed and evenly chopped
~ 1½ cups cooked chickpeas (or 1 can)
~ shredded cooked chicken
~ fresh dill, torn or chopped, to garnish
Special equipment needed:
~ heatproof glass measuring cup and bowl
How to make it:
1. Whisk together the eggs and lemon juice in a heatproof bowl until frothy, and set aside. (4 eggs will make a more decadently creamy soup, but it will work fine with 3 eggs, too.)
2. In a large saucepan, bring the chicken stock to a boil, then reduce to a strong simmer and add the orzo, kale, and chickpeas. Cook for 7 minutes, then turn the heat all the way down to a very low simmer (the orzo will finish cooking during the next steps).
3. Scoop out 1-1½ cups of broth with a glass measuring cup, or ladle some broth into the cup (avoiding the orzo, kale, and chickpeas, and returning any to the saucepan). Slowly pour the cup of broth into the egg-lemon mixture, while whisking the eggs constantly, until the mixture becomes pale yellow and frothy. (Repeat, whisking in another ladle-ful of broth, if you scooped up less than a cup the first time.)
4. Then turn off the heat on the soup pot, and gradually pour the egg-lemon-broth mixture back into the soup, stirring constantly as you add it, and for another minute or two. Season with salt and white pepper. Optionally add warmed cooked shredded chicken.
5. Ladle into bowls and garnish with fresh dill. Serve warm. (To re-heat, microwave in short increments, or gradually heat in a pan on the stove, but do not bring to a boil.)
Print this recipe! (PDF)
Related recipe posts:
|Lemony Lentil and Spinach Soup||Toasted Orzo with Kale, Feta, and Radishes||Tom Kha Gai Soup with Chicken and Lemongrass||Spanakopita with Kale (Kale-akopita)|