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John I. Carney

Loose Talk / Charge Complete

John I. Carney is city editor of the Times-Gazette.

Lemon and chicken and rice and eggs

Sunday, February 18, 2018
The red specks are kalamata olives, which I tried adding as a garnish; they didn't work well. The tanginess of the olives plus the tanginess of the soup was just too much. Skip 'em.
T-G Photo by John I. Carney

I've wanted to try avgolemono, a lemony Greek soup, ever since I first heard about it, and when I saw a few recipes for making the soup in an Instant Pot or other electric pressure cooker, I knew I'd eventually try one.

Oh, I'm glad I did.

If you don't yet have an Instant Pot, I've worked out (but not tested) stovetop directions for this dish as well, and included both of them below.

According to Wikipedia, the term can be used either for a soup or a sauce, both of which have the same egg-and-lemon base. As a soup, it's basically a chicken-and-rice soup to which is added a mixture of egg and lemon juice. The egg-and-lemon mixture is tempered first -- gradually warmed up and diluted rather than just dumped into the soup pot all at once. You do not want egg drop soup, where you have little bits or ribbons of egg. Instead, you want the egg to thicken the soup, making it creamy and opaque and giving it some body.

I actually love egg drop soup, by the way; it's just not what we're making today.

The way you keep the egg from scrambling is by whisking it with the lemon juice and then adding a little bit of the warm broth to it, whisking constantly. That way, you gradually dilute and increase the temperature of the eggs rather than just suddenly poaching them in the hot water. Once the egg, lemon and broth mixture has been warmed up, it can be safely whisked into the soup pot without scrambling. It gives the soup a lovely color and texture.

The other big flavor in the soup, at least as I made it, is dill. The original recipe from which I was working (from a website called The Yum Yum Factor) called for either a particular brand of spice blend or several tablespoons of fresh dill. I chose the dill, and that was unquestionably the right choice. It goes right along with the lemon and chicken and egg. Do not leave out the fresh dill, which you can find sold in little plastic clamshells in most big supermarkets.

I did not spring for flat-leaf Italian parsley, which was also called or in the original recipe. I did add some dry parsley from the cupboard. Fresh would probably have made it even better.

The recipe calls for some already-cooked chicken. You could, for example, buy a rotisserie chicken from the store and debone it. In my case, I did not have any cooked chicken. What I did (and this is not in the directions below) is debone some uncooked chicken thighs, cut them up into small pieces, and then brown them in my Instant Pot, using the saute function. Then, I let them cook the rest of the way through at high pressure along with the rice and stock. That worked perfectly.

The recipe calls for arborio rice. This is a short-grain rice which is normally used to make risotto. I suspect it's called for here becuase it's starchy, which may help give body to the soup. But if you want to try it with a 20-minute long-grain rice, it would probably work just as well.

The original recipe called for chicken stock. I do sometimes make chicken stock or "bone broth" in my Instant Pot, but didn't have any lying around on the day I cooked this. So I used Better Than Bouillon chicken base, which I always have in the fridge, mixed in the appropriate amount of water. Just don't use bouillon cubes, which are often too salty and don't taste nearly as good.

I tried garnishing my avgolemono with some kalamata olives, which I thought would complement the tangy taste. But it was just too much. I would not use them again.

You could, however, zest your lemons without juicing them and use a little bit of the zest as a garnish, which would probably be quite good. If you happen to have fresh parsley, that would work too.

The recipe made plenty of soup, so I put it in the fridge and reheated some the next day for lunch, which worked just fine. I haven't tried freezing it, so I don't know how well it freezes. But once people taste it, long-term storage may be the least of your worries, if you get my drift.

Avgolemono

6 cups chicken stock or broth (storebought, homemade, or chicken base -- such as Better Than Bouillon -- mixed with water)

Heaping 1/2 cup uncooked arborio rice (may be labeled as "risotto rice" or "rice for risotto") or other uncooked rice.

Juice of 2 lemons

2 large eggs

Salt, pepper

2 cups shredded, cooked chicken (such as from a supermarket rotisserie chicken)

3-4 T. fresh dill

2 t. parsley (or 2 T. of finely-chopped fresh parsley, if available)

Electric pressure cooker directions

Put the chicken stock and rice in the pot and cook at high pressure for 7 minutes. While the stock and rice are cooking, beat the eggs with the lemon juice, salt and pepper in a medium or large bowl.

Once the stock and rice have cooked, do a quick release of the pressure; leave the cooker on "keep warm" setting, if available.

Carefully ladle some of the warm broth into the lemon-and-egg mixture, whisking constantly. After you've mixed in about three ladles full of broth, empty the mixture back into the saucepan, whisking constantly. Add the chicken, dill and parsley. Warm, without boiling, until the soup thickens slightly and the chicken is heated through, then serve.

Stove top directions

Prepare uncooked Arborio rice according to package directions (adjusting the quantities as necessary for 1/2 cup of uncooked rice).

Bring stock to a simmer in a large saucepan or a dutch oven.

Beat the eggs with the lemon juice, salt and pepper in a medium or large bowl. Carefully ladle some of the warm broth into the lemon-and-egg mixture, whisking constantly. After you've mixed in about three ladles full of broth, empty the mixture back into the saucepan, whisking constantly. Add the chicken, rice, dill and parsley. Simmer, without boiling, until the soup thickens slightly and the chicken is heated through, then serve.

Adapted from a recipe by The Yum Yum Factor, http://theyumyumfactor.blogspot.com/2016/03/instant-pot-to-rescue-avgolemono-sou... .

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