Greek lemon chicken soup, also known as Avgolemono soup, is bright and warming. With the addition of a green salad, it makes a delicious satisfying dinner. I love soup in the winter and this one is both hearty and light. I’ll explain. It has plenty of chicken and rice and a rich creamy texture, despite having no cream in it. The lightness comes from the lemon. I think lemon juice makes all foods taste lighter and brighter, like a sunny day on the beach on a Greek Island. Ok, I’m getting carried away – I clearly need a vacation!
Plain old chicken soup has lost a little of its glamour in my house because I’m always making it as soon as someone gets sick. Avgolemono is just a few eggs and 2 lemons away from Jewish penicillin, yet it has a whole different gestalt. The egg-lemon mixture clouds, thickens and enriches the broth. The rice and chicken add body. Every spoonful is lemony and substantial. Try this from scratch as I do here or, if you’re in a rush, use your favorite store-bought chicken broth (I recommend Swanson’s low salt) and a rotisserie chicken.
The key to this recipe is adding the eggs to the soup so they create a creamy thickness rather than a broth with scrambled eggs floating in it. Eggs cook quickly and easily when they come into contact with heat. They must be tempered before they are added to the hot soup pot. Tempering means bringing the temperature up…slowly. By combining the eggs with lemon juice and whisking them first with just a small amount of hot broth to heat them, they are then able to be whisked into the hot soup pot, without curdling. Be sure to avoid boiling when you reheat the soup.
- 1 small chicken (about 3½ pounds) cut into 8 parts
- 1 carrot, chunked
- 1 onion, quartered
- 2 stalks celery, sliced into thirds
- ½ bunch parsley, washed
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 12 cups cold water
- 3 large eggs
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice (from 1½ or 2 lemons)
- 3½ cups cooked rice
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Note: If using store bought chicken broth, you will need 8 cups of broth for this recipe.
- Put the chicken, carrot, onion, celery, parsley, and salt in a large Dutch oven or stock pot. Add 12 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Lower to a gentle simmer and cook uncovered. After 10 minutes, skim the white solids that rise to the top. (this will ensure a clearer broth) Simmer gently for an hour more. Remove the chicken from the pot. Take the meat off the bones. Shred or cut into bite-sized pieces and set aside. Pour the soup and vegetables through a strainer, reserving the broth. (The cooked vegetables will not be needed for this recipe). Using a large spoon, skim the fat that pools on top of the broth. If you have time to make a broth a day early, a night in the fridge makes it easy to remove the fat. The fat becomes a thin hard layer, sitting on top. Return broth to the pot and heat to a simmer. Remove from heat.
- Whisk the eggs and lemon juice in a small bowl until fully mixed. While whisking, slowly pour one cup of hot broth into the egg-lemon mixture. Then pour egg-lemon-soup mixture into the heated pot of broth while whisking to combine. Reheat gently but don't allow the soup to boil or the eggs will curdle.
- Scoop ½ to ¾ cup of hot rice into the bottom of each soup bowl. Add some shredded chicken. Pour in 1 to 1½ cups of broth. Season, to taste, with salt and fresh ground pepper. Garnish with a lemon slice and some parsley, if you like. Enjoy!