Greek lemon rice chicken soup
FoodSour but 'heavenly' flavors

Greek lemon rice chicken soup

Eggs whisked with fresh lemon juice, tempered back into the pot of soup, makes the soup look and taste creamy.

Greek lemon rice chicken soup (Photo by Jessica Grann)
Greek lemon rice chicken soup (Photo by Jessica Grann)

Would you like to add more flavor to your traditional chicken soup? This traditional Greek version, called Avgolemeno, will delight your taste buds.
While Ashkenazi food is often based on wonderful, sweet-and-sour recipes, Sephardic and Mediterranean food most often has full-on sour flavors — which may seem strange if that’s new to you, but it’s heavenly.

I remember eating this soup when I was young, and it reminds me of hamud, a traditional Syrian dish that is made with kibbe (a combination of bulgur cracked wheat, chopped onions, spices and lean meat).

You don’t need to start this soup from scratch. Feel free to use store-bought broth and leftover roast chicken. I firmly believe in taking shortcuts if it puts homemade food on the table.

A simple way to make chicken broth is to put a whole chicken in a crockpot in the evening with a few small onions and a few stalks of celery. Cook on low overnight, cool, discard the celery and onions, then strain the broth and pull the chicken from the bones — this is an easier method than cooking broth for hours on the stovetop.

This recipe has simple ingredients that most of us have on hand. The secret is eggs whisked with fresh lemon juice that is tempered back into the pot of soup. The addition of eggs makes the soup look and taste creamy, yet the broth still has a very light texture.

This recipe has a lot of rice and chicken that is hearty and filling but easy to digest.

2 quarts (8 cups) chicken broth
3-4 cups cooked chicken
⅔ cup white rice
1 medium onion, chopped
1½ cups carrots, diced
1½ cups celery, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 heaping teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 bay leaf
1½ teaspoons oregano
2 eggs
½ cup fresh lemon juice
Fresh parsley or dill to garnish

Rinse the rice by measuring it into a mesh strainer and running it under water for a few minutes; or put it in a bowl, cover with water and change the water a few times. You’ll see a lot of white starch leak into the water, which is exactly what you want to see. The grains of rinsed rice stay separate and don’t turn into mush when cooked.

If you made chicken broth or are using leftover chicken soup broth, be sure that it’s strained and any old vegetables are removed. You will sauté fresh onions, carrots and celery to add to this soup.

Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the soup pot, and place it over medium-low heat.

Add the onions, celery and carrots to the pot, and sauté for 10 minutes.

Stir in the fresh garlic, oregano, salt and pepper and cook for one minute, until the garlic is fragrant.

Add the rinsed rice, chicken and chicken broth to the pot along with one large bay leaf.

Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and cover the pot. Simmer for half an hour.

Whisk two eggs well in a medium-sized bowl.

Pour the fresh lemon juice into the eggs and whisk well for about a minute. The mixture will look light and frothy.

When the soup is fully cooked, take the bowl with eggs to the stovetop. Using a soup ladle, scoop one full ladle of hot chicken broth out of the pot.
With one hand, continuously whisk the egg mixture, and slowly add the hot broth into the bowl. If you pour slowly and whisk quickly you will not have any issues. If you don’t whisk quickly, or you pour too much hot broth into the bowl at once, then the eggs will scramble.

Repeat this process, then very slowly stir the egg mixture into the pot of soup. Stir the soup continuously while pouring in the egg broth mixture. The clear chicken soup broth will turn a creamy yellow color.

Remove the pot from the heat, and put the lid on immediately. It will stay very hot for half an hour.

Garnish with fresh dill or parsley before serving.

You can rewarm this soup, but you have to do it slowly and over medium-low heat or the mixture will separate. I find that the texture and broth are always best on the first day.

I hope that you enjoy this flavorful Greek soup. Bless your hands! PJC

Jessica Grann is a home chef living in Pittsburgh.

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