Saturday, 2 January 2016

Chicken lemon rice soup, or Αυγολέμονο, or Augolemono Soup,

Yum

Augolemono, which translates to egg & lemon, is one of the staples of Greek cuisine—which is also why I decided to feature it as my first Greek recipe.

Before I get into the actual recipe, I just want to summarise a few basic qualities of Greek cuisine. Firstly, Greek food often makes use of a few basic ingredients: olive oil, lemon, garlic, olives, cheese, various legumes, wine, grains, honey etc. Secondly, Greek cuisine does have regional differences. Since my family comes from one of the Ionian islands, my recipe of Augolemono, for example, may have some slight variations to the same dish in another part of the country. I would also like to point out that due to the long-time Venetian rule of the Ionian islands, there are some obvious Italian influences in the traditional dishes.

Back to augolemono. Now, there are many different ways to eat this soup. When my sister and I were young, my mom would blend the chicken and vegetables in the soup—not that we were picky eaters or anything, but obviously as children, it was easier to feed us a blended version of the soup. When we grew older, we would eat the chicken and vegetables first—mainly because we were too impatient to wait for the soup to finish. Nowadays, I prefer to cut the chicken and vegetables into pieces, and incorporate them in the soup—this step is optional, as I have clearly pointed out in the recipe.

For this recipe, I decided to use the legs, wings, and spine of the chicken (bones always make a better broth), saving the breasts for another dish. Also, feel free to use as many or as little vegetables as you want—you aren’t obligated to use what I did, and I promise the soup will still be delicious. Finally, I used basmati rice (I didn’t have any long-grain), but you can also use orzo if you so choose.


Augolemono Soup
Cooking Time: 1hr 30 mins

Ingredients:
3 medium Carrots
2 large Potatoes
2 stalks of Celery
½ of a medium Chicken
2 large Eggs
2 Lemons, juice of
Salt & Pepper to taste
½ to ¾ cup Long-grain White Rice (I used Basmati), depending on how thick you want your soup to be

Method:
1. Add your chicken and vegetables in a large pot. Fill the pot with enough water to cover your ingredients, sprinkle in some salt, and bring to a boil. As your chicken cooks, it will release impurities—skim them with a wire mesh ladle.
chop vegetables
3. When your vegetables are tender, about 30 mins, remove them from the pot, place them in a platter to cool, and continue to cook the chicken on Med/Low heat. Your chicken should continue to cook until the meat can easily pull away from the bones (another 20-30 mins).
my kitchen was really steamy at this point, hence the distortion in colour
4. Remove the chicken from the pot, and place it in the same platter as the vegetables. Let cool. Skim the rest of the broth to make sure all impurities/bones are removed.
5. Bring your broth to a boil, add your rice, and season with salt and pepper. Cook until rice is tender (15-20 mins). Remove from heat and allow to cool.
6. Optional Step: While your rice is cooking, chop your vegetables into small pieces and shred your chicken (make sure to remove all of the skin and bones).  DO NOT do this if your chicken is still hot. You will burn your fingers.
7. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and lemon juice until foamy. Gradually whisk in ONLY your broth, excluding the rice, ladle by ladle, until all your broth is incorporated. OK this part is tricky because you really DON’T want your soup to curdle. The way I avoid this from happening is by waiting for my soup to slightly cool, making sure my eggs/lemons are room temperature, and combining my broth with the egg/lemon mixture VERY slowly. I also use a hand mixer for this process because I get really tired if I whisk it by hand (not that it’s not doable). If you are rushing, I suggest adding a bit of cold water to your pot, just so it can cool quickly, and then proceeding with the rest of the steps—at your own risk.
mixture should remain frothy as you are combining the lemon/egg with the broth
this is what the end result should look like
8. Once your soup is combined, pour the contents back into your pot whilst continually stirring. Season to taste. Now you can either put the lid back on your pot and leave it for a few minutes, or spoon out to your bowls right away.
9. Optional step: remember the vegetables/chicken? It is at this point that I re-introduce them to the pot. Ladle into a boil, sprinkle some pepper and Enjoy!


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