Even though I can’t stand bitter greens, and most tart fruits without something masking them, I have a serious affection for lemon. My mothers lemon bread, well that’s something to write home about. The zing and zest of ripe lemon brightens just about everything it comes into contact with. That, I learned, is because the acid makes your mouth salivate and forces you to taste things differently. I’ve squeezed lemon on my steak for as long as I can remember. My parents picked that habit up in Naples and I experienced it first-hand in Rome – the Italians know what they are doing. Then I noticed that the way we served chicken noodle soup in our house was different. My father always added lemon juice into the broth. As a kid, I thought this was standard.
A few weeks ago I found a recipe for Avgolemono, a traditional Greek soup consisting of chicken broth with lots of lemon and egg yolks acting as a thickening agent. Apparently it’s iconic and I had no idea! So I decided to put a big pot of stock on the stove one Sunday morning and give it a go.
I didn’t have celery but, after all was said and done, I didn’t notice. I did, however, have a big beautiful leek from my co-op.
Stock is so dense in nutrients and so simple to make. Here are the steps I take if you want to follow along.
Chicken Stock from scratch:
- 1 whole bird – preferably organic, antibiotic & growth hormone free
- 1 large white onion – quartered
- 1/2 head of garlic – grown in the USA please
- 2 carrots – scrubbed
- 2 leeks – white and light green part only. Halved and run under cool water to clear any soil
- 1 handful of flat leaf parsley
- 1 tsp of black peppercorns
- 1 tbsp of kosher salt
- 2 Turkish bay leaves
- 4 quarts of water
Place everything into a stock pot and bring to a boil. Have a fine mesh spoon and a bowl handy.
Reduce the heat to a simmer. You will notice that a foam will begin to develop, it kind of looks like the stuff that you find on the shores of East Beach in Newport on a Summers day. It looks gross because it is, skim it off into the bowl. Don’t worry, you are not saving this. Feel free to dump it and wash it down the drain in between, as this will continue until the later stages of preparation. Let it go for a couple of hours, until you find that the meat is falling off the bone.
Now you’re ready to strain. Line a colander with cheese cloth and set it over a pot. Let the broth cool for a bit so you don’t scald yourself.
When you’re ready, carefully remove the chicken and set aside. Strain the broth and vegetables through your prepared colander. From here, you’ll want to allow your liquid to come to room temperature, then cool for a few hours in the fridge or until the fat solidifies.
The final step: use your fat skimming (mesh lined) spoon to remove and discard the solid bits.
Meanwhile, when cool enough to handle, shred your chicken. I like to do this by hand but a fork works as well. Separate the bones, skin, and any chewy bits that you wouldn’t like in your soup bowl out.
From here you can make this delicious lemony chicken soup, otherwise known as Avgolemono!
- Chicken stock: recipe above (I use the whole pot for multiple dinners and lunches)
- Shredded chicken (again, I use it all)
- the juice of 3 lemons
- 4 egg yolks – preferably pasture raised
- fresh cracked pepper
- a few dashes of your favorite hot pepper blend – we love Breathless from Des’s Deadly Dash.
- your favorite soup pasta – it could be orzo, ditalini, broken spaghetti, you choose!
Bring your stock back up to temperature, not quite a boil but hot.
Whisk the egg yolks with the lemon juice.
Add some of the warmed stock to the lemon and egg mixture, one ladle at a time until it has been tempered. You’re not trying to cook the eggs!
With the pot off the heat, add the tempered mixture to the stock and stir. Don’t forget a few good cracks of fresh black pepper, taste and adjust accordingly.
Finally, add the shredded chicken to warm it through and pour over a bowl full of pasta.
I added steamed asparagus but you can try snap peas, some chopped parsley, or no green stuff at all if you prefer.
So here’s to nourishment in a bowl, fuel your body and stay warm friends!