Chicken soup is food for the soul and is said to be the most famous broth-based soup in the world. Because it is so popular there are innumerable cultural variations and recipes. I could have an entire blog devoted to chicken soup – but that would get a bit mundane for both you and me even though I am a soup and sauce addict.
One of my favorite chicken soups – yes, I have a lot of favorites – is avgolemono soupa, Greek lemon chicken soup. “Avgolemono” refers to the egg (avgo) and lemon (lemon) sauce that is the basis of many Greek dishes. The term is also widely used to reference the soup that’s made of the same.
This is a heartier version than most traditional and commonly found recipes because it includes both the cooked chicken and veggies. Many recipes also call for adding flour or cornstarch, I don’t use either and make this recipe gluten-free friendly by using a starchy rice to make the soup thick and creamy. The eggs are also a thickener and give it some richness. If you can eat pasta, try it with orzo pasta – it’s frequently the preferred starch used to make avgolemono.
The secret to making a really good Greek lemon chicken soup is the stock. If you have home-made stock all the better. If you don’t keep your freezer stocked with it, you can substitute chicken thighs for breasts, which will make for a tastier broth. If you use bouillon cubes, good luck.
If you’ve never made or eaten avgolemono, do try it. Like many other Greek dishes, the use of citrus brings a refreshing balance of flavor. It’s light but still satisfying and great for leftovers. I’ve been grubbin’ on it these last few nights when I needed some comfort food – the cold temperatures and snow are back in Denver.
I also wanted to mention that I made a food stylng faux pas – I added the fresh ground black pepper to the bowl before I photographed (and soon after ate) it.
By the way this is one of those soups that tastes better the next day.
Greek Lemon Chicken Soup – Avgolemono
Serves 6 to 8
This is a lemony version of avgolemono. If that makes you nervous, cut back the lemon whisked in with the eggs to 1/4 cup and add more to taste. (Note: the lemon flavor gets more concentrated as the soup thickens. Use caution in using more than 1/2 cup (the juice of two lemons).
In the event, the soup is too lemony or thick for your tastes, you can thin it with another cup or two of chicken stock. If you prefer a thicker soup, reduce the amount of stock by a cup or two; you do so, you’ll also need to reduce the amount of lemon juice.
Fresh parsley and/or dill are more than garnish with this soup. Don’t skip it.
2 large chicken breasts, cut into 2 to 3 inch pieces, seasoned generously with salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 half medium onion, diced small
2 stalks of celery, diced small
2 large carrots, diced small
12 cups chicken stock* (3 quarts)
1 cup starchy rice such as Arborio or orzo pasta**
1 to 2 teaspoons salt, divided
3 eggs, whisked
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (2 lemons), juice divided
1 to 2 teaspoons black pepper
Fresh parsley or dill
- Cut chicken breasts into large pieces (2 to 3 inch pieces, about same thickness) and season generously with salt and pepper. Set aside.
- In a large pot, heat olive oil on medium heat. Add the diced onion, celery and carrots. Saute for about two minutes. If the vegetables and bottom of the pot are completely dry, drizzle in about a tablespoon more of olive oil and add the chicken pieces. Lightly brown on both sides, stirring vegetables to avoid over browning. Add chicken stock, rice, and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a slow boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer for about 15 – 20 minutes until chicken and rice are cooked.
- Remove 1 1/2 cups broth and set aside in a separate small bowl. Set aside to cool slightly. Remove chicken with tongs and shred with a fork. Set aside separately. (2 large chicken breasts make about 3 cups shredded chicken).
- In a separate medium bowl, whisk the eggs with 1/2 cup lemon juice (use about 1/4 cup lemon juice for a more subdued lemon accent). Whisk in about 1/4 cup of the set aside chicken broth into the egg mixture to temper the eggs – so they do not curdle. Repeat again, incrementally and slowly adding more broth as you whisk. After you’ve incorporated all the set aside broth into the egg mixture, slowly add it to the large pot of soup, whisking quickly to incorporate.
- Return the shredded chicken to the pot – heat throughout. Note: the heat should be on low and the soup should not boil again. Add the black pepper and adjust the salt. Serve hot and top with fresh parsley or dill. Avgolemono will thicken as it sits.
*Chicken stock: If you do not have some quality chicken stock, use about 4 chicken thighs in lieu of chicken breasts to make this soup. Season the thicks generously and brown them with the onions, celery and carrots. However, simmer the soup for about 45 minutes to an hour to develop the flavors. Debone and shred.
**You can also use a mix of rice and pasta if you’re not concerned with the gluten.