Avgolemono soup is a Greek soup that may have its origin in Iberia brought by Sephardic Jews after they were expelled from Spain in 1492. In its simplest form it has only four ingredients: chicken stock, some kind of starch (usually rice or orzo), a souring agent (usually lemon juice, but pomegranate and sour orange juice may also be used) and eggs. While the simple soup may be nice, it would not make a complete meal because it lacks vegtables.
To make it a meal soup, I am adding some onion, celery, and a bit of carrot. As Eilene is sick, I am also planning to add plenty of garlic. I do not want an overwhelming garlic flavor, so I decided smooth the garlic’s flavor by roasting it first. It is near the end of Meyer lemon season and these should also provide mellowness to the lemon flavor.
I liked the look of soups that had a very yellow cast to them. One way to achieve this color is to use a lot of egg yolks to thicken the soup. However, my wife would object to all that cholesterol. Another way is to add a coloring agent, either turmeric or saffron would work. I personally feel that turmeric imparts a flat taste, so I plan to use saffron. It has a milder flavor and if the origin of this soup is in Iberia, saffron would be more in the original tradition.
Karl’s Avgolemono Soup, Greek Egg and Meyer Lemon Soup
15 large cloves garlic
1+ Tbs. olive oil
4 chicken thighs
1 onion, diced finely
2 stalks celery, diced finely
1 small heirloom carrot, finely grated
¼ tsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp. Mediterranean oregano
½ tsp. lemon zest
¼ tsp. pepper, to taste
8 cups chicken stock
Pinch saffron threads
1 cup orzo
3 Meyer lemons, juiced
½ cup parsley, chopped finely
1. Put the garlic in an oven proof covered bowl with a drizzle of olive oil. Toss to coat the cloves with the oil and roast in a 350° F oven for 40 minutes, stirring once half way through.
2. Add one tablespoon of oil to a soup pot and brown the chicken thighs well, until almost completely cooked.
3. Without cleaning the pot, add the vegetables and salt. Sauté for the vegetables for five minutes until just starting to pick up some color.
4. Add the oregano, zest, pepper, and chicken stock and bring the pot to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.
5. While the soup is simmering, chop the chicken into small pieces and mash the garlic to a fine paste.
6. Grind the saffron between your fingers into a small cup and add a quarter cup of the hot water to the cup and let it sit for 10 minutes.
7. Add the orzo, chicken and garlic paste and continue simmering about 10-12 more minutes, until the orzo is fully cooked.
8. Remove the pot from the heat and cool slightly.
9. Whisk the eggs in a bowl until frothy.
10. Slowly whisk some of the liquid from the soup into the eggs. Dribble two or three ladles of soup into the bowl whisking constantly.
Tip: This tempers the eggs and prevents them from turning into scrambled eggs in the soup.
11. Whisk the mixture slowly into the soup.
12. Pour the liquid through a fine meshed sieve into a small bowl to catch any large threads of saffron.
13. Add the lemon juice to the cup of saffron water and stir it into the soup.
Tip: Most of the recipes called for adding the lemon juice to the eggs, but I found this to curdle the eggs and this prevented them from thickening the soup properly.
14. Return the soup to the heat and simmer until the soup is thickened, about one to two minutes.
Tip: Do not bring the soup to even a slight boil or the eggs will “break” and turn the soup watery.
15. Stir in the parsley and serve.