Avgolemono: Greek Rice and Lemon Soup

Originally, I intended to make this a Five Minute Photo Shoot, which explains the lack of “in progress” pictures.  But this dish was so fantastic, I simply had to share the recipe.

This thick Greek soup is quite simple, and shockingly good from a very few ingredients.  This, for better or worse, is one of those soups that really should be made with a homemade stock.  Sure, you can make it with store-bought; but with homemade, it becomes eye-rollingly, lick-the-bowl good.  (Ask me how I know this.)

Luckily for me, I needed to make some space in the freezer yesterday, so I had a pot of stock bubbling away on the stove.  There were also a few pitiful sacks of bulk-bin white rice knocking about in the pantry, loose ends of no more than 1/4 cup each.  Two stalks of celery, two lemons, some egg yolk, and 7 ounces of shredded chicken from the freezer didn’t seem like much of an arsenal to call on, but it all came together in one of the most satisfying dishes I’ve made in recent memory.

I think that’s the most delightful part of this recipe: it seems cobbled together from loose bits hanging around the kitchen, but the rapid metamorphosis into fine cuisine is stunning.  It was so good, I even forgot to grind black pepper over my dish (usually one of the first things I do at dinner) until it was almost gone, and the addition put it over the top for me.

Try this.  Try this tonight.


Avgolemono
Inspired by Gourmet Magazine and The Kitchn
Makes about 4 servings

I made this without measuring anything, and using bits and bobs found in the kitchen, but I’ve done my best to be as accurate as possible.  You can use any kind of rice or grain here, and I’m sure a mixture would be fantastic, but white rice is traditional, and that’s what I had.  Adjust the cooking time as necessary to cook brown rice or whole grains; add those in first if using a combination with white rice.  Toss in some lemon zest, mix up the herbs, add chicken or don’t; this soup lends itself very well to adjustments, so have fun.

If you don’t have homemade stock on hand, dice 1 small onion and the celery called for in the recipe.  Simmer them, along with 1 bay leaf, in store-bought stock for 30 to 60 minutes before proceeding with the recipe.  Discard the bay leaf before serving.  Also omit (or at least greatly reduce) the salt listed in the recipe, as most store-bought stocks will be plenty salty enough for this use.

1 quart homemade chicken stock, more or less
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 to 1 cup white long grain rice (such as jasmine)
2 stalks celery, diced
2 to 3 egg yolks
7 ounces shredded cooked chicken (about 1 cup, optional)
2 whole scallions, sliced thinly
A few tender fennel fronds from the center of a fennel bulb, chopped (1 to 2 tablespoons, optional; parsley would also be good)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 2 lemons), more or less depending on the tartness
Salt and black pepper, to taste

1.  Bring the stock to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Add the salt (if using), rice, and celery, and stir to combine.  Return to a boil, then lower the heat to maintain a moderate simmer.  Cover the pot with a lid slightly askew, to allow some steam to escape.  Cook without stirring for 10 minutes, or until the rice is at least al dente.

2.  If the rice has absorbed most of the stock, add some additional warm stock to thin the mixture a little.  Whisk the egg yolks in a medium bowl just to combine.  Slowly drizzle in a bit of the hot soup, whisking constantly.  Continue adding the soup slowly, whisking all the while, until about a cup of soup has been tempered in.  Add this back into the pot, along with the chicken.  Cook over medium-low heat until heated through and thickened a bit, taking care not to let it boil (which will curdle the eggs), just a few minutes.

3.  Stir in the scallions and fennel fronds.  Add 3 tablespoons of the lemon juice.  Taste, and add extra as needed to get a lemony flavor that isn’t overwhelmingly sour.  Correct seasoning to taste with salt and plenty of black pepper.  Serve immediately with crusty bread, and maybe a luxurious drizzle of olive oil on top.  A glass of crisp and dry white wine is never out of place with this.

3 Comments

  1. Jannell (yer old dorm-mate from AU)
    March 8, 2011 at 11:52 AM

    Yes!! I was so happy to stumble over your site. You’ve been up to some amazing projects ‘n’ stuff!

    Beth, it is lovely. I’m a Smitten Kitchen addict, but yours is my new favorite! I am having a wonderful time reading it. And am encouraged to make stock!

    Also, hey there!!

  2. Beth
    March 9, 2011 at 6:15 PM

    Jannell! Hello hello hello! I’m so glad you found my li’l site, and even more thrilled that you like it. And yes, make stock! Make all the stock. So happy to hear from you! XOXO

  3. Annemarie
    December 3, 2012 at 12:18 PM

    Thanks… I love rice and I love lemmon… and always have it on hand. I will try it.

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  1. […] Dinner? With the news coming out of Greece for the past, oh, year or so, I decided to make a traditional Greek soup to break my weekly Lenten fast (more on this after Easter). But I knew I’d have a […]

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