October 23, 2014

Avgolemono with Chicken, Rice, and Spinach

Avgolemono is a lot harder to spell and to pronounce (Ah-vo-lem-oh-no) than it is to make, at least that's what I discovered this week.  This is a Greek soup, the name Avgolemono translates to Egg-Lemon. I know, I know, it sounds a little weird. But if you have ever tried this delightfully comforting soup, you know how great it is!  I have only ever had this at a sort of 'fast food' version of Greek food, but I loved it so much. I always imagined it to be much more difficult to create at home and I am so glad that I was wrong!

This is comfort food for sure, a Greek version of chicken noodle soup, perfect for rainy days.  Requiring few ingredients that you probably already have on hand, perfectly creamy from the eggs, and bright with lemon, this soup is comforting as well as light and refreshing! This is one of my favorite soups that I have made, and I would not change a thing. 
 
I was inspired to make this by a recipe that was in a local grocery store ad booklet that came in the mail.  I cut it in half and combined it with some elements from a recipe I had seen on The Kitchn.  Below is the recipe as I made it.  

Avgolemono, with Chicken, Rice, and Spinach
Serves 4 hungry people as a main course

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 of a medium onion, diced (about 1/4 cup)
1 carrot, shredded (about 1/4 cup)
2 celery sticks, sliced (about 1/4 cup)
fresh spinach, I used all of a 5 oz package
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more, depending on your taste)
1 cup of cooked jasmine rice or other white rice
1 cup cooked chicken, diced (I used some breast and some thigh meat from a rotisserie chicken))
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 egg yolks (room temp if you can!)
1/4 cup of fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp of lemon zest
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh Italian parsley, chopped (to serve)

Heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the onion, carrot, and celery.  Cook until the onion is slightly translucent.  Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook for about a minute until fragrant.  Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, broth, and diced chicken.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a low simmer.  Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

While the broth is simmering away, cook the rice.  This should take about 20 minutes, depending on the type of rice you use. (I used 1/2 cup dry jasmine rice, and ended up with just about 1 cup of cooked rice. It was the perfect amount. )

Once rice is cooked, remove from heat and set aside.  Reduce the heat of your broth to the lowest heat your stove allows.

Now to temper the eggs.  Whisk the egg yolks vigorously in a medium bowl until they are frothy.  Take a small ladle full of the soup broth and slowly pour it into the yolks while continuously whisking.  Do this a few more times, allowing a minute or two between each new addition of hot broth, all the while whisking.   (I was super nervous of ruining this step, so I was super cautious, adding a very little bit at a time, but I don't think you can be too cautious.  You are not making egg drop soup, you want this to just create a frothy, creamy texture, and you are trying to bring the egg yolks to a temperature close to the temp of the broth, so that you can combine them without them curdling/cooking.)   Once you have whisked in a fair amount of broth and the temperature of the yolk mixture is pretty warm, nearly hot, add it slowly into the soup pot, whisking in the soup pot this time. 

Add the spinach to the soup. Don't bother chopping it or anything, just throw it in and stir.

Let the soup cook for about 10 minutes on very low heat, until slightly thickened and the spinach is wilted.  Adjust seasonings.  Serve immediately and top with fresh chopped parsley.  We ate this with a delicious olive bread which was a perfect accompaniment.

***One more note: If you do not eat this all on the first night, be aware that it does thicken up overnight because of the rice, but ours was still pretty soupy, and did not need additional broth.  If you need to, yo could add a bit of broth when heating up.  But,  be careful when reheating! Heat the soup over very low heat, in a pot with a lid, so that the eggs don't curdle.  Not sure how well a microwave would work in this situation.

I cannot wait to make this again!

2014-10-20 Greekish Lemon Chicken 010