I lovvvvvee the flavor of lemon.
And I know I sound like dorky Food Network obsessive when I make the very predictable claim that it adds a necessary note of freshness. But it’s so true! Lemon rocks. That citrusy punch is perfect in so many sweet and savory dishes.
We still have fresh lemons on our backyard tree, and I’ve been furiously finding ways to use the last of the crop before I have to start paying for them at the grocery store. One of my favorite uses has been in a version of avgolemono, the sumptuous Greek lemon chicken soup with rice or orzo. I remember noshing on this light but hardy dish at the old Zorba’s on Perkins Road here in Baton Rouge (where Louisiana Lagniappe is located now). The restaurant reopened last year on Essen Lane, and it still serves this traditional starter.
There are lots of interesting recipes out there for avgolemono, but the defining feature is that beaten eggs are incorporated into the broth, providing unexpected richness……
I used the following recipe by nutritionist and healthy cooking host Ellie Krieger. It was packed with flavor and quick to execute.
Lemon Chicken Soup with Orzo
Recipe by Ellie Krieger, from the James Beard Award-Winning cookbook, The Food You Crave
4 teaspoons olive oil
8 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cut into small chunks
Pinch of salt, plus more to taste
1 medium onion, diced (about 1 ½ cups)
2 stalks celery, diced (about ½ cup)
1 medium carrot, diced (about ½ cup)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup orzo, preferably whole-wheat
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with the salt, add it to the pot, and cook, stirring, a few times, until just cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a dish and set aside.
Add the remaining 2 teaspoons oil to the pot. Add the onion, celery, carrot, and thyme and cook, stirring over medium-high heat until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Add 5 cups of the broth and bring to a boil. Add the orzo and let simmer until tender, about 8 minutes. Turn the heat down to low to keep the soup hot but not boiling.
Warm the remaining 1 cup broth in a small saucepan until it is hot but not boiling. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs. Gradually whisk the lemon juice into the eggs. Then gradually add the hot broth to the egg-lemon mixture, whisking all the while. Add the mixture to the soup, stirring well until the soup is thickened. Do not let the soup come to a boil. Add the cooked chicken to the soup. Season with salt and pepper and serve.