Avgolemono (Greek chicken, lemon & rice soup)
There is a whole skinned chicken sitting in my fridge. Chicken breast was on the menu at last weekend’s dinner party. I wanted to add a crispy skin for garnish. You place chicken skin on a sheet pan with a bit of oil in between two pieces of parchment. Place another sheet pan on top and bake for about 20 minutes. Viola! Chicken crackling. However, it can be difficult to source only the skin. I typically have to buy a whole chicken and use its skin. But then, I am left with a whole skinned chicken. Hence, there is a whole skinned chicken sitting in my fridge.
Fast forward to one day after I couldn’t get the skinless chicken out of my head:
I was just going to make a stock, but I had several quarts already stored in my freezer. I decided to make one of my favorite soups, avgolemono. I’m often crunched for time when cooking for my weekly clients and I’ll use store bought stock and chicken thighs for this soup. This time, I needed to use this whole chicken and had the time to let a stock pot simmer on my range as long as I wanted.
This recipe takes a while, but there is a lot of down-time and it’s quite simple. The most difficult part is tempering the eggs into the soup to thicken and create a creaminess without scrambling the eggs. When I say “difficult”, I only mean that it takes patience. Maintaining patience can be difficult for some, including myself. The whole skin-on chicken can go into the pot as is, but you can skin it first if you’re feeling up for making and snacking on some crispy chicken crackling during the down-time. If my chicken still had skin, I would.
Yield: about 3 quarts
1 Whole chicken (about 3 lbs.)
3 Large yellow onions, peeled and roughly chopped
1 Bunch celery, roughly chopped
4 Large carrots, roughly chopped
2 Heads garlic, cloves only, peeled
3 Stalks lemongrass, pounded and cut into 3-4” pieces (optional)
3 Bay Leaf
5 Sprigs thyme
1 T Black peppercorn
1 t salt
Put all the ingredients into a large stock pot and fill with cold water until all ingredients are covered by about 2 inches.
Bring the stock to a boil and reduce to a simmer.
Simmer for about 45 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. You can use a thermometer to temp the largest part of the breast. It should be at least 165. Or you can simply break apart the meat to ensure it is no longer pink inside. Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside to cool. Continue simmering the stock.
Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, separate the meat from the skin and bones. Tear the meat into bite sized pieces and reserve while putting the other parts back into the stock.
Simmer the stock for at least 30 minutes more. Continue simmering if there is enough liquid to reduce more. You’re aiming for about 2 quarts of stock here, but this can be adjusted if it gets too low.
Strain the stock through a colander and then again through a finer mesh strainer. There should be about 2 quarts of stock at this point. If not, water or store-bought stock can be added to make 2 quarts.
½ C Basmati rice
2 lemons, zested and juiced, plus more as desired
Salt, as needed
Bring the stock to a simmer and stir in the rice. Cover and simmer until the rice is cooked, stirring occasionally to ensure that the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom (about 20 minutes).
Whisk the egg yolks, lemon zest, and juice until smooth and creamy.
Turn the heat as low as possible. Slowly drizzle a bit of the stock into the egg mixture while quickly whisking. Continue doing this until the egg mixture is the same temperature as the stock in the pot. Then slowly drizzle the egg mixture back into the pot while quickly whisking.
Add the reserved chicken to the pot and stir over low heat until the chicken is heated through and the soup slightly thickens. Depending on how much meat you’ve yielded from your chicken, you may want to add only a portion of it. Do not let the soup heat any higher than a low simmer.
Season with salt to taste and adjust with more lemon as desired.
The soup can be stored and refrigerated for up to 5 days. When re-heating, use a small sauce pot and bring to temperature slowly. Do not use high heat.
The stock ingredients don’t have to be exact. These items are naturally different sizes and yield different amounts. The most important part about making the stock is keeping it at a simmer and giving it enough time to reduce.
If you are using a smaller pot when making the stock, you may need to add more water if it reduces too quickly. This might happen before the chicken is cooked through. Simply add more water to the pot to make sure the chicken is submerged until it is cooked.