Meyer Lemon Avgolemono (Greek Lemon Chicken) Soup
I know I've mentioned it before - I learned to cook by watching my grandmother, and being allowed to experiment in the kitchen by my mother, who could cook, but didn't enjoy it. Most of my early attempts at real meals were made following one or another recipe created by one of these two women. My mom sent me to college with my own copies of many of these recipes, and I often entertained friends by cooking and sharing these family meals.
As my culinary understanding grew, and I relied on recipes less and less in the kitchen, I began to crave some of these childhood favorites, but found that many of them relied on canned and processed foods. Take this original Greek Lemon Soup that my mother used to make on the regular, for example. Not only was the base four cans of chicken and rice soup, but the recipe calls for Sauterne (not to be confused with the sweet desert wine Sauternes). Sauterne is what we used to call "Cooking Wine," and it was literally just that. Found near the vinegars, and next to the similarly labeled "Cooking Sherry," Sauterne was not a drinkable wine, and was full of sugars and preservatives. Bleeech. Thankfully, today's trend is to cook with wine you would drink, and Sauterne is therefore hard to come by, not that one would go looking for it. For this particular recipe, I substituted with a French White Burgundy, and let me tell you-- it works beautifully. And that is really what reworked recipes like this are for, taking generational favorites, and giving them a whole new look. It is, but it isn't, my grandmother's cooking anymore...
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups chopped onions
2 cups chopped celery
2 cups chopped carrots
1/2 t celery salt
3/4 t dried oregano
1 cup White Burgandy
4 cups diced cooked chicken breasts (Time Saver: Use a Rotisserie Chicken from the Market)
8c (2 quarts) of chicken stock
4 egg yolks
Juice of 3 Meyer lemons
4 cups of cooked white rice
Zest of 1 Meyer lemon
Salt and Pepper
In a large stock pot, melt the 2 sticks of butter. You don't want browned butter in this recipe, so keep it on low, and watch carefully. Add carrots, celery, onions, celery salt, oregano, and a healthy pinch of salt and pepper to the pan.
Sauté until onions are slightly translucent, and carrots and celery begin to soften.
Add wine, and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and add chicken. Stir to incorporate and add a dash more salt.
Add chicken stock, and bring to a boil, once again. Reduce to a simmer.
Let simmer for 20 minutes.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks with lemon juice. Add a small amount of simmered soup to egg mixture, while whisking vigorously. Continue adding small spoonfuls of soup to the egg mixture separately, whisking all the while, until the liquid has doubled. This tempers the eggs, allowing them to reach the temperature of the soup, without scrambling them, so they retain a liquid form, and creating a thick, silky texture to the soup. Once the egg mixture is doubled, add the entire bowl back into the stock pot, whisking to incorporate.
Add cooked rice, and continue simmering for 10 more minutes.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve in bowls, topped with a bit of Meyer Lemon Zest.