Before I start to detail my venture to make Avgolemono, I would like to state that I simply find the versatile chemistry of an egg amazing. Scrambled, boiled, poached, and today I learned how to perfectly temper an egg. What it means to temper an egg is that you raise its temperature gradually, essentially cooking it without scrambling it. When you have perfectly tempered an egg it will basically look like a raw egg, but it will be cooked. Now you may want to know why I would want to temper an egg, aside from being an excellent source of thickener for soups and stews as well as a binding agent, it is an essential ingredient for Avgolemono, which is the Greek holiday traditional dish I made this weekend.
Avgolemono, Greek for egg-lemon, is a traditional Greek soup made especially for Christmas Eve Dinner. It is a family of Mediterranean sauces and soups made with egg and lemon juice mixed with broth, heated until they thicken. However, it’s not only a Greek practice, it is called tarbiya or beida bi-lemoune ‘egg with lemon’ in Arabic and in Turkish terbiye. In Sephardic Jewish cuisine, it is called agristada or salsa blanco, and in Italian cuisine, bagna brusca, brodettato, or brodo brusco. It is also widely used in Balkan cuisine.
Avgolemono is a fresh lemony soup, yet a perfect winter meal, as it’s very comforting and hits the spot on a chilly day. Here is how to make it for just 2 servings on a cool winter night:
2 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup long-grain white rice
1 ½ tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Parsley leaves, for garnish
Bring your chicken stock to a boil in a saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and stir in rice; cook, partially covered and stirring occasionally, until rice is tender. It takes about 20 minutes. Whisk egg and lemon juice in a bowl until frothy. Now it will require some skill to temper yoYou will need:ur egg mixture. You will need to use both hands. While whisking your egg and lemon mixture pour a small amount of the simmering stock in. Repeat this at least two more times, but you can repeat as many times as you need to. This was my first time doing this and to play it safe I slowly poured more than half of my stock in one tablespoon at a time. It’s easy to do with a small quantity of soup. Once your egg mixture is tempered, pour the mixture back in the saucepan. Cook, while stirring, about 2 minutes more; season with salt and pepper and garnish with parsley.
It’s very important to note: Never let the soup boil once you’ve added the egg-lemon mixture. The soup can break and you will end up with a still edible, but ugly mixture. If you want to reheat leftovers, do it gently, and don’t let the soup boil. You will also notice the longer you keep your soup simmering on the heat, the thicker it will get, remember it keep stirring!
I think next time I will add chicken or potatoes to this soup. You would simply cook you chicken in the broth as you would your rice and then continue with the recipe.
Avgolemono is amazingly creamy with not one bit of cream in it. I think it is a fairly healthy and hearty soup. Although in the winter this soup is served piping hot with rice, the Greeks also serve it chilled in the summer. It is said that when you hit the ouzo too hard, you can find relief with a steaming bowl of Avgolemono the next day. No wonder they make this during their holiday celebrations, after a night of revelry and drinking, it’s needed the next day.
It can be an art to make this soup, but after attempting it, I found it to be quite an easy technique for me. It think this is a quick and easy soup to make and a great option during the holiday season when being in the kitchen can be very time consuming. After a day of shopping for Christmas presents, settle down to this Greek delight while you wrap presents during the chilly winter nights.
Καλά Χριστούγεννα ~ Kalá Christoúgenna
– Merry Christmas