Tuesday, February 3, 2009

It's all Greek to me!

Allelouia! Finally, I've made a beautifully elegant, decadently delicious, and weeknight-easy soup for two! The egg technique you need to apply here is called tempering. It's what distinguishes the velvety texture of this traditional avgolemono (Greek lemon-egg soup) from, say, stracciatella, the Italian egg-drop soup. To temper an egg, you cook it by heating it ever-so-slowly, so that it's just steaming, but doesn't ever get hot enough to curdle into "drops." One way you can temper egg is by whisking it in a metal bowl balanced over a pot of boiling water - the steam heats it gradually (the same can be done with chocolate, for insta-fondue!). Another way is by slowly whisking hot stock into the beaten eggs, which is the method I opted for here. Try it out! You'll be surprised at how easy tempering is, and how lickety-split the soup comes together (about 15 minutes). Just don't forget to say "Opa!"

Avgolemono (Greek lemon & egg soup)
Yield: 2 generous bowls
As a side note, for those of you who are sick of buying boxes of stock (for whatever reason - health-related, environmental, budgetary, etc.), I'll let you in on a little secret: there's nothing to it! For a simple chicken stock, which works well with this soup, boil a pot of water, add a couple of cut carrots, some chopped onion, a bay leaf if you have it, and a piece of raw chicken (or some leftover chicken bones). Bring back to a steady simmer and, after about 15 minutes, lower heat and let sit covered for another 20. Strain out the solids, let your stock cool, and there you have it! (Bonus: If you use chicken breast to make your stock, you can use the resulting cooked chicken to make a homemade chicken salad sandwich for lunch the next day.)

- 3 cups stock (see headnote)
- 1/2 cup whole grain (bulgur, quinoa, brown basmati, etc.)
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 green cardemom pods, split open
- juice of 1 lemon (about 1/4 cup)
- 2 tablespoons lemon zest
- salt
- 2 eggs, at room temp.
- 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped

1. Bring stock to a boil over medium-high in a pot.
2. Add the grain, bay leaf, cardemom pods, lemon juice and zest, and salt to taste. Simmer covered, 8-10 minutes. Discard bay leaf and cardemom pods and bring back to a simmer.
3. Meanwhile, beat the eggs well, and slowly ladle 1 cup of stock into the eggs, whisking continuously until completely homogenous.
4. Reduce the heat to low and gradually whisk in the egg-stock mixture. Be sure to continue whisking continuously, so as not to allow eggs to curdle while cooking.
5. Let the soup simmer, continuing to stir, for another 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat, adjust seasoning with salt if necessary, fold in the mint, and serve immediately.

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