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.
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!
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.