Chicken Lemon Soup (Avgolemono)

Here, we’ve taken a traditional dish rich in Mediterranean heritage and added a little this-and-that to make a spectacular modern version of a Greek classic. This is a cream-less (yet creamy) lemony soup with orzo and herbs, and it will keep you from ever going back to traditional chicken soup. Opa! I think my Aunt Sophie would approve.

This can serve as a full lunch or a great start to dinner. It’s best served in the cooler months but still tastes delicious year-round, especially on a rainy day.

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 4 skin-on, bone-in half chicken breasts
  • 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • 1 large leek, cleaned and sliced, white and light green part only
  • 1 cup of carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8 sprigs fresh thyme, bound by cooking string
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 9 cups chicken stock, homemade
  • 2 chicken bouillon cubes, Knorr brand preferred
  • 1 1/2 cup orzo
  • 2 lemons, zested
  • 1 1/2 cup lemon juice (and and additional 1/2 cup to finish off if needed)
  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • Fresh basil, sliced very thinly
  • Fresh dill, chopped finely
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Feta cheese, crumbled
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

We use bone-in chicken breasts with the skin on so the breast meat remains tender. If you roast skinless chicken breasts, the outer layer of the meat becomes dry and chewy.

Making It

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and set a rack in the middle. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the breasts apart from each other. Liberally season them with salt and pepper, and roast for about 35-40 minutes, then let cool. Remove the skin and bones and shred the breast meat by hand. You can discard the skin and bones, but we always like to roast the skins like on our chicken bog and serve with the soup.
  • In a medium stock-pot, add the butter and drizzle a little olive oil over medium heat. When it begins to bubble, add the leek, carrots, red pepper flakes, thyme and bay leafs, then sauté for 5-7 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic and sauté for another two minutes, then add the stock and chicken bouillon. Bring to a boil and add the orzo, then cook for 5 minutes (al-dente).
  • Using a Kitchen-Aid mixer fitted with a whisk, add the egg whites and mix at medium-high until soft peaks appear. In a separate medium bowl, whisk the egg yoke together with the lemon juice, then slowly fold this into the egg whites. Do this as the orzo cooks.
  • When the orzo is done, turn the flame to a low simmer and add the chicken, lemon zest, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and 2/3 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper.
  • Immediately and slowly, ladle some of the hot stock into the egg lemon mix. You should add 4-5 ladles very slowly, while whisking to make sure the eggs don’t scramble. Once completed, you can slowly whisk the egg mixture back into the soup and cook for an additional ten minutes. The soup will thicken.
  • Taste the soup for salt and lemon, if too tart add a teaspoon of sugar, and adjust seasonings, also remove the bay leaves and thyme bundle
  • Ladle the soup in bowls and top with a drizzle of olive oil, red pepper flakes, feta, basil, dill, and freshly ground black pepper. Serve hot.
  • TIP: If you have leftovers, use a little extra chicken stock to wake it up.

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