If you are greek you know what Avgolemono is! It’s the taste of memories – for me it always reminds me of my Yiayia (gran). On cold days (like today in Johannesburg, South Africa) there is nothing better than a steaming bowl of avgolemono to undo the damage and warm the bones. It’s one of the greatest smile inducers to me that my son, who has a father who shamefully can’t speak the language of my people (I will, one day), loves avgolemono, if fact his favourite food is “white soup”, and so he also will have the memory of this yumminess in his recollection.
For those who don’t know, avgolemono is a greek family of sauces and soups made with egg yolk and lemon juice which is mixed in and heated until they thicken – I love eating and cooking avgolemono recipes, and best of all the base sauce can be used in a number of ways – with Meatballs it’s called Giouvarlakia; with Lamb, artichokes and Orzo Pasta it’s Arni me Anginares Avgolemono; with Pork and Celery it’s Hirino me Selino; at Easter we have a Tripe variation which signifies the break of our Great Lent called Magiritsa; finally (on this list anyway) there is the classic chicken avgolemono soup pretty much called just avgolemono.
Below, for the benefit of those who may want to try a twist on or may want to try this great meal for the first time, is my variation of the classic chicken avgolemono (currently being devoured by my family), Avgolemono-a-la-Soz with slight amendments from other variations of this dish:
- 4 tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 250g chicken livers
- 2 leeks, sliced (include 2 inches of green)
- 2 medium onions, diced
- 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
- 1 carrot finely diced
- 2 cups white wine
- 2 cups chicken stock or broth
- 8 – 10 large stalks pascal celery (with leaves) cut into 1-1/2 inch pieces
- 1 whole uncooked chicken
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
- 1 cup uncooked rice
- Juice of three lemons (strained)
- 3 large eggs (at room temperature)
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a large pot, heat the butter and olive oil together over medium high heat. Season the livers with salt and freshly ground black pepper and then saute until cooked through (the livers add a further depth of flavour).
- Remove the livers to a platter on the side (you will slice them small before you add them back later). Add the leek and onion to the pot and saute until nicely tender, about 5 minutes. Add the 2 tbsp. flour to the pot and cook for about a minute until incorporated.
- Add the celery, carrot and the wine and allow the liquid to come to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer covered for about 10 minutes.
- Add the sliced chicken livers (with juices) and lower the full chicken into the pot. Pour the chicken stock over the chicken (making sure it is covered – add extra water if needed, and additional chicken stock cubes in proportion to keep the flavour rich (remember there is rice in this recipe and rice tends to absorb salt and flavour, also the flavour of your broth will mix well with the avgolemono sauce the fuller it is ie salt, pepper, flavour), add the dill to the pot and simmer covered for approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
- When the chicken is done, the meat should pull from the bones easily. Transfer the bird to a large bowl and set aside to cool. Add the rice, and season the broth with salt and pepper. Simmer over low heat for 20 more minutes, or until rice is tender. During this time remove the skin from the bird and start pulling the flesh off, this goes back into the pot after the twenty minutes.
- Now for the Avgolemono Sauce:Separate the eggs. First beat the egg whites in a medium bowl until stiff (but not too stiff, we not making meringues here), then add in the yolks and continue beating until frothy. Slowly whisk in the lemon juice. Ladle one cup of the pot liquid little by little into egg-lemon mixture to temper the eggs.
- Remove pot from heat and add egg-lemon mixture stirring gently. Heat over very low heat until sauce thickens and is heated through. Take care not to allow the sauce to boil or the eggs will curdle.Re-season with salt and freshly ground black pepper as needed, and serve with additional lemon wedges.
Heaven in a bowl!!!