Following the theme in my previous post of the chicken and the egg together in a pot, here’s a similar savory, warm, and beguiling herald to Spring. Called avgolemeno, meaning literally egg and lemon, it’s a classic of Greek cooking that can be either a sauce or a soup.
I first came across avgolemeno in Michael Field’s Cooking School, a gift to me on my 20th birthday and the cookbook that launched my career (though that was not clear at the time). His recipe for avgolemeno is for the sauce version made with chicken broth (other traditional options are lamb, veal, fish or vegetable broth or just water, so lots to choose from as long as your diet includes eggs) paired with grilled butterflied leg of lamb. Reading it, trying the recipe (with great success!), food horizons opened before my eyes in kaleidoscopic array: avgolemenono with seasonal companion vegetables like artichokes, asparagus, fennel, delicate young broccolis. Avgolemeno sauce stretched to soup proportions and plumped out with nourishing grains, orzo (seed pasta), rice. Avgolemeno stirred into a basic chicken soup or veal braise to enrich it just before serving.
From then on, avgolemeno found a permanent place in my bag of versatile embellishing tricks, and I head right to it when I need something scrumptious to sauce or enhance many a dish, especially in spring.
Makes about 1 1/4 cups sauce
1 cup broth, chicken, veal, fish, or vegetable (see Note below)
3 large eggs
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Kosher or fine sea salt, to taste
1. Heat the broth in a medium-size saucepan over medium-high heat. When just beginning to boil, turn off the heat and leave the pan on the burner.
2. In a medium-size bowl, beat the eggs until very frothy, about 2 minutes.
3. Whisk in the lemon juice, then slowly add the hot broth, whisking as you go. Pour the mixture back into the same saucepan in which you heated the broth and turn the heat back on to low.
4. Cook, whisking gently, until thickened enough to coat a wooden spoon, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in salt to taste (I usually don’t add any salt here, depending on the saltiness of the broth). Use right away or cool and refrigerate for up to overnight. Reheat in a saucepan over medium-low heat or in a microwave oven for about 1 minute.
Note: If making avgolemeno soup, increase the amount of broth to 5 cups and cook 1/2 cup rice or orzo pasta in it. Turn off the heat and gradually whisk in the lemon/egg mixture. Turn the heat back on to medium-low, cook until piping hot but not yet boiling, and serve.