13 January 2011

Whole Chicken Soup With Avgolemono and Orzo from Michael Psilakis


Whole Chicken Soup With Avgolemono and Orzo

Today we are making an iconic Greek dish that can be found in almost every taverna in Greece, at least that would be my expectation.  I remember being in a taverna in the mountainous regions of Greece in the tiny town of Metsovo in the northern most part of the Zagoria region which is famous for its cheeses. Early evening was a wonderful time to arrive. As we descended through the mist, dazzling lights twinkled in the ravine. Stone houses with grey slate roofs and sharply projecting balconies lined the steep serpentine alleyways.





The following day I was in the square near the orthodox church nursing a cold with this very soup. Sniffling I observed the elderly men sitting on a bench lined up like crows in black flat caps, dark baggy pants and wooden shoes. The older women coming from the market with their freshly picked garden greens wore dark blue or black with embroidered trim and brightly coloured aprons, jackets and scarves.


Growing up in a British household this is not the chicken noodle soup I grew up with but this iconic Greek chicken-egg-lemon soup has been a favourite of children for millennia. It is hearty and cheering on a windswept, snowy day just like today. On top of being a wonderfully warming high-protein soup, it is surprisingly easy to make! Some orzo is simmered in the stock until tender, the yolks and lemon juice are tempered by some of the warmed stock.The eggs soften the acidity of the lemon, which leads off the flavour profile of this heartwarming soup. Whipping the egg whites as Michael does makes the soup  have a lighter tongue feel than my usual version.

The pasta used in this dish is orzo. The word orzo is Italian for “barley,” and a reference to the size and shape of the pasta. You can also see orzo called kritharaki, manestra, rosa marina, reiskornpasta, or pasta gallo pion. This pasta is very popular in Greece especially, although it is used in other Mediterranean and Middle Eastern nations... and here in the melting pot of cultures we call Canada as well!

I am sending this over to Presto Pasta Nights  which has been the baby of Ruth over at Once Upon a Feast for over 3 glorious years. Whenever we feel the urge for some pasta we can go over to her site and have 3 years of entries from all over the world to choose from from pasta salad to lasagna to Pho. There is a pasta for every season, every ingredient and every taste. All of these delicious pasta dishes have been submitted by all of you!!! This week the event is being hosted by Claire of Chez Cayenne.


This version of the classic comes from Michael Psilakis. He says, "This is a hearty, traditional Greek dish. It's more economical to buy whole chickens rather than chicken pieces, so you may remove four breasts from two whole chickens and freeze them for souvlaki, or grilled chicken for one of the salad recipes. The bones of the chicken add great body and flavor to this broth." Perhaps where Michael lives this would be the case but here in the Okanagan whole chickens come at a premium price. Perhaps chicken in general comes at a premium price. For this recipe I used a leftover chicken I had roasted for our Sunday meal; or better yet purchase a roasted rotisserie chicken. I am confused by the fact that I can purchase a succulent rotisserie chicken for anywhere from $7 -$10 and yet to purchase a whole uncooked chicken it is $15 -$20. Math is not my strength but even I can do the math here. I can certainly understand the added benefit to the flavour of this soup from roasting the chickens beforehand. The broth was the deepest, richest colour I have seen yet in a homemade stock and the flavour outstanding.

 This soup is good for what ails you...if anything... and will wrap you like a warm blanket on cold, snowy days like today. The Okanagan has caught up with the rest of the country where even our "snowplow happy" city cannot keep up with plowing the roads. Our world looks like it has been covered in a white blanket which makes the landscape surreal and reminds me why I live in Canada...in the winter.

Don't forget to send in your dish for the Best Thing I Ever Ate (recently) challenge here at More Than Burnt Toast. Send your submission to bestdisheverate@gmail.com by midnight February 15th. Read all about it here.

**Whole Chicken Soup With Avgolemono and Orzo**
adapted from Michael Psilakis, "How to Roast a Lamb"

2 (3 1/2-pound) chickens
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons blended oil (90 percent canola, 10 percent extra-virgin olive)
1 carrot, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
1 1/2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1/2 Spanish or sweet onion, finely chopped
2 fresh bay leaves or 3 dried leaves
3 large sprigs thyme
1 cup white wine
Water as needed
1 cup orzo

For the Avgolemono

3 large eggs, at room temperature, separated
4 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup small, picked sprigs dill
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper

(If using a leftover roast chicken or rotsisserie chicken skip steps 1 and 2)

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Remove the breasts from both chickens and double-wrap in plastic wrap. Place inside a zipper-lock bag, label, and freeze for the next time you make souvlaki. Remove the leg-thigh joints from the chicken, pull off the skin, and discard. Set aside.

Place the chickens in a large roasting pan, season with kosher salt and pepper, and roast for 1 hour, until golden.

In a large, heavy pot, warm the blended oil over medium-high heat. Add all the vegetables and cook until softened but not browned, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the bay leaves and thyme, then deglaze the pot with the white wine and cook until it completely evaporates. Add the roasted chicken carcasses. Season liberally with kosher salt and pepper. Cover with water by about 2 inches. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer gently for 1 hour. Add 4 leg-thigh pieces and continue to simmer for another 40 to 45 minutes, until the chicken is tender. Skim off the scum that rises at the beginning. Lift out the leg-thigh joints and, when cool enough to handle, pull off and reserve the meat. Discard the carcasses and any stray bones, and skim a little fat from the soup if you like. Bring soup to a boil, add the orzo, and cook for another 8 to 10 minutes.

While the orzo is cooking, make the Avgolemono. Get everything together so you can work quickly. Draw off 2 cups of the chicken broth, without any of the vegetables (or orzo), and return the picked chicken meat to the soup. Slowly drizzle the warm chicken broth into the egg yolks, whisking all the time. Place the egg whites in a food processor and turn it on. When the whites begin to froth, after about 30 seconds, add the lemon juice, keeping the motor running all the time. When the whites are very frothy and thick, another 45 to 60 seconds, add the dill, and process for 10 to 15 seconds more while you season liberally with salt and pepper. Pour in the egg yolk mixture and immediately turn the machine off.  Pour the Avgolemono over the soup and serve at once, as it will quickly start to deflate.

*If you will not be serving the soup right away, cook the orzo separately, cool down, and then add, and warm through, just before topping with the Avgolemono.

*For a lighter soup, skip the roasting of the chickens and simply simmer the chicken until tender.

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38 comments:

  1. Anytime I have a cold or am sick...it's Avgolemono soup to the rescue. Well written post, Val.

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  2. Great variation on the common chicken soup. Definitely something I would want to try. The heartiness makes this perfect as a meal in itself instead of just the predecessor to the main course.

    I don't get that expensive chicken thing. Usually it's cheaper to buy whole chickens than it is to buy it in pieces. At least it's like that in the US. Whenever I can I like to buy my chickens from a local farm that sells through the weekly farm market and they only sell their chickens one way - whole - hence my tendency to show a lot of roasted chicken on my blog.

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  3. I've not been to Greece--yet, but have enjoyed this soup in a number of Greek restaurants and at the home of a friend who has been my mentor in all things Greek.

    So cold here! We welcome new soup recipes to get us through in a warm and delicious way.

    Best,
    Bonnie

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  4. Love the photo of the two women. I can imagine how the comforting quality of this soup It's time I tried, since it has been on my to-do list for a while. That bowl is so tempting!

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  5. I like the idea of chicken soup thickened by protein rich eggs and then brighten by lemony accents. This looks so good!

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  6. You can never have enough delicious soup recipes! This looks terrific. I loved reading a bit of history on this soup and the photos are terrific!

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  7. I always eat soup, I love to make with some toasted bread or cruotons, this look delicious! xxx gloria

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  8. I love your description of your visit to Greece. This looks so warming! Thanks for sending it over to Presto Pasta Nights.

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  9. I love the post. Greece is definitely on my list of places to visit.. and the soup - fantastic! Thanks for sharing with Presto Pasta Nights.

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  10. I'm with you on the roast chicken for Sunday dinner and the carcass for soup. I get those organic, sustainably raised and expensive chickens is why. They are too precious. This soup does sound delicious though.

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  11. Anything with this much lemony flavor makes me swoon! What a perfect soup!

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  12. Greek soups are so unique and delicious! This one is fabulous.

    I visited Greece once and was blown away by the beauty of this unique country.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  13. That looks very comforting especially for the snowbound. Yesterday they said on the news that FL was the only state that did not have snow, but we have had record-breaking cold weather. Could you imagine? What a winter!

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  14. I have a cold and would LOVE a big bowl of this mouthwatering soup. I'm enjoying your Greek recipes and excellent photos.

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  15. wonderful post val. i wish i could smell this...its the best smell on a cold winters night isn't it?

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  16. Great post, Val. the avgolemono looks delicious. One of my favorite soups, even if it is also one of the most simple.

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  17. Another great post (as always Val). Love this chicken soup recipe - looks delish!

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  18. I didn't have a chance to try this soup when we were in Greece, it sounds wonderful and I'm looking forward to making it at home!

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  19. Val: I had my 60th birthday at Michael's restaurant and Joan joined us. He is a personal friend of ours and I think he is a genious. Great soup. You should try his "pulpo".

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  20. I've heard of this soup a million times, but I've never actually made it, or even had it. Of course, I've never been to Greece either. I'm so deprived.

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  21. I love this soup and fell in love with myself (so proud) the first time I ever made it. I couldn't believe how ultra delicious it was. YUMMM. I have never made it again as Vanja hates lemon anything. Except Lemonade. He loves that. So sad. This is a gorgeous soup (I order it!) and a gorgeous recipe with a very interesting read. Love the mood photos, too!
    :)
    Valerie

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  22. Oh Val, what a marvelous soup! I didn't have it in Greece, but I'm sure going to make it now. Bet it freezes well too. I always like to have something warm, comforting and filling in the freezer!

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  23. We're studying Greece right now as a family, and this soup sounds wonderful. I'm going to have to come back on a day that I have more energy so that I can make it. Yum!

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  24. Oooh! I see your hitting the Greek dishes hard! A very informative post Val and def one of the better soups out there!

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  25. This is a perfect soup for the cold we are getting. Never made it Val but I should.

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  26. I loved this soup, Val and I'm so glad you shared your memories of having it in Greece. This looks delicious. It's food for the spirit as well as the body. Have a wonderful weekend. Blessings...Mary

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  27. What perfect timing! I have two sick babies, with colds, and I was pondering what to make. This has been on my list for the longest time! Such a great post, Val. I loved your story of Greece and the photos of the women in their layers of skirts and clothing. Someday, I hope to visit Greece.

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  28. Yum - this is one of my favourite soups. It was fall when we were in Greece (lucky you for having lived there) so it was appearing on many menus. I'm going to have to try making it at home.

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  29. With all that cold weather out there, soup sounds SOOOO good.

    <3, New Follower

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  30. I've only eaten avgolemono soup once and loved it, but never actually made it, even though I make chicken soup all the time. You're inspiring me to start.

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  31. this is certainly not the chicken soup i was raised on either, but there's no doubt in my mind that i'd love it. ah...michael psilakis--well done!

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  32. This looks so delicious and comforting Val! I have never gotten the hang of avgolemono, but it sure tastes good!

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  33. This looks amazing. I've seen a couple of avgolemono mentions in the past couple of weeks. I'm thinking it's a sign I must make some.

    j

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  34. These charming photos certainly made me long to go back to Greece where I've enjoyed a few vacation splendours. I absoulutely love Greek food and have tried many dishes, and yet, never have tried this version of chicken soup ;o)

    Have a great day Val.
    Flavourful wishes,
    Claudia

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  35. Looks like a lovely soup. My father was born in Greece, and I had grandparents there I never got the chance to meet. Hopefully some day I can make a trip there.

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  36. Val, What an educational post! I've never been to Greece and would so love to go and visit such a beautiful place. Your photos, especially of the women in traditional dress, are so engaging! I've not heard of this soup, altho I do know what orzo is. But it sounds divine! Even if one is not sick, this soup sounds perfect for a cold, winter day! Thanks for sharing last week on Fresh Friday! Roz

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  37. I've been seeing this soup in cookbooks for decades, and it's been on my to-cook list for almost as long. Thank you for sharing this wonderful, curated version, which I'm absolutely determined (finally!) to make. It's a perfect remedy for the cold and damp weather we're having here this week.

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  38. I must bookmark this to make when winter comes around. I love avgolemono soup, though funnily enough when I was in Greece last year I didn't even have it once - perhaps because it was mid summer and just too hot to even think about soup.
    Sue :-)

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Welcome to my home. Thank you so much for choosing to stay a while and for sharing our lives through food. I appreciate all your comments, suggestions, daily encouragement and support.

Val

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