Greek Chicken Soup

by Jeanne


Olympic fever, at least in my world, reached its pitch yesterday. Tyler Hamilton was finally number one in pro cycling. Awarded a gold medal for the men’s individual time trial yesterday he’s back on top after withdrawing from the Tour de France (TDF) and suffering the loss of his buddy, Tugboat, his golden retriever days into the TDF. Although Tyler isn’t currently a member of the USPS team, he’s a former teammate of Lance. He’s got courage, game and he hails from my home state of Massachusetts. It should also be mentioned that the bronze was captured by fellow American Bobby Julich. Go USA. American pro cycling has never looked better!

Last night having arrived home late and nursing the start of a summer cold I accompanied my Olympic viewing with a classic Greek chicken soup—avgolemono (pronounced ahv-goh-leh-MAH-noh).

This is a very tasty and easy Greek soup which may be served cold or hot. Served cold, it is wonderful on a hot summer day. I prepared my soup warm as summer in San Francisco, well, that means gray, chilly and foggy days. Avgolemono is also the name for a warmed Greek sauce made with, egg yolks and lemon. It is often used to dress dolmades-stuffed grape leaves or lamb meatballs.

The preparation of this dish is remarkably simple. In preparing this dish it made me think of an easy Italian soup I like to prepare, brodo con straciatella. As a point of comparison it would appear that the only difference between Greek and Italian cooking is a matter of technique and lemon juice.

For this soup the whites are folded into the broth first with the lemon juice, and the yolks are added on a very low heat that mustn’t reach boiling point or it will curdle. Finally a knob of butter is floated in each bowl to serve.

I started with a recipe from James Peterson’s Splendid Soups simply because this chef-author is one thorough professional. In the text of this book he writes of several well-known avgolemono variations. One from James Villas using orzo and oysters; another made with lamb broth and one more from Morocco that flavors the soup with saffron, cinnamon and uses cilantro instead of the parsley.

As orzo is a Greek pantry staple I substituted the rice Peterson calls for with it. I also had some left over poached chicken that I shredded and added in at the end. As I love the fresh, clean taste of lemon I also added in some zest at the end. The following recipe was what I ended up doing.


Greek Lemon Soup

Serves 2-4

1 quart chicken broth
1/2 C partially cooked orzo
2 eggs
Juice of 3 lemons
5 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley
little lemon slices
Lemon zest
Optional – shredded cooked chicken
Freshly ground salt and pepper

Bring first 2 ingredients to a boil in a saucepan. Cover and simmer until orzo is tender. The goal is to infuse the orzo with the chicken broth flavors while finishing the cooking of the orzo. Remove from heat.

In a bowl, beat the eggs until fluffy. Add and beat in lemon juice and parsley to the eggs.

Slowly stir about 2 cups of the hot broth into the egg mixture and whisk vigorously. Pour back into rest of soup over very low heat whisk until slightly thick. The soup must not come to a boil or it will curdle. Add shredded cooked chicken and lemon zest if using.

Serve hot or refrigerate until cold. Garnish with lemon slice.

Serve with Kalamata olives and bread for a complete meal.