Apparently, people are clamoring for Avgolemono, a lemony Greek chicken soup, judging from the 62 reviews for the Epicurious recipe available online, which has a respectable three-fork rating. Personally, I don't have memories of slurping this soup down in some Greek diner on my corner, but many do, especially in Chicago, and they all want a good recipe. The only problem is that actually reading these abundant reviews (a post on Too Many Chefs lead me there) reveals a shake-up: the Epicurious recipe is disparaged as inauthentic. Hardly anyone likes it. Instead, a mysterious cook known only as "Boston, MA" who left a comment in 2002, is repeatedly praised as the provider of an "OUTSTANDING," "SUPER" and "MUCH better" recipe than the original—and many people provide high ratings for her recipe instead. It's just a quick paragraph and comes from the author's experience watching her Yia Yia (grandmother) make it when she was a child. It involves 5 ingredients, including pepper.
With some chicken stock in the freezer and a pile of lemons, I set out to see what the hype was about (this recent cloudy weather made it all the more appealing). Some orzo or rice is simmered in the stock until tender, and in the meantime the egg whites are whipped separately, the yolks and lemon juice added, followed by some of the warmed stock. By throwing the whisk around like a madman, I was able to achieve the soup's unique alchemy: the eggs, rather than stiffening and cooking into a scramble-like mess, turn the soup creamy and rich. It also softens the acidity of the lemon, which leads off the flavor profile, followed by "richness of eggs, salt of chicken [stock], and starch of rice, in that order." This one's going in my regular Winter rotation.
- 8 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade, if not, low sodium
- 1 cup orzo pasta, or rice
- 4 eggs, separated
- Juice of 3 lemons
- Freshly ground black pepper
Bring stock to a boil and add orzo or rice. Simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. Season stock to taste with salt, if necessary.
When the orzo or rice is nearing tenderness, whisk the egg whites in a separate bowl until medium peaks. Add egg yolks and lemon juice, whisking continuously.
When the orzo or rice is finished, transfer 2 cups of the hot stock to the egg/lemon mixture, adding very slowly in a constant stream and beating vigorously to prevent the eggs from solidifying.
Take the soup off the heat and add the beaten mixture back into the pot, whisking to incorporate. Serve immediately with freshly ground black pepper.