Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Soul Food of My Childhood

Yes, you guessed, it's chicken soup. Of course, it's chicken soup, but I'm Greek by birth, so it's Souppa Avgolemono. A mouthful, I agree, but you can just say Greek Chicken Soup, and then go fill your mouth with its comforting goodness. Here's what you do.

Greek Chicken Soup (with a fancy-looking creamy finish)

Ingredients for Broth
1 chicken or hen *
water
salt
1 large carrot (peeled and cut into large chunks)
1 large celery rib (strings removed and cut into large chunks)
2 T Italian parsley

Remaining Ingredients
1 cup rice
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
4 large eggs (6, if you want the soup to be extra creamy)
large pinch of salt
freshly cracked black pepper

Get the biggest pot that you own (big enough to hold the chicken and to cover it with water), Into the pot goes the chicken and vegetables and then enough cold (as in cold from the faucet) water to cover and come about 1-2 inches above the chicken. Place the pot on the stove over high heat and cover with a lid. Regarding the salt and pepper, you'll have to learn how much to add. If you don't have enough, you can adjust this later.

Bring the whole thing to a rolling boil, take the lid off, reduce heat to medium and skim off any "scum" that comes to the top. Cover the pot and continue to cook for 1 1/2  - 2 hours. You're doing this to cook the chicken completely and to extract the flavor from the bones and meat.

Once the chicken is cooked, use a large strainer to remove the chicken and all vegetables from the broth. Taste the broth and add salt, if it's needed. Increase the heat, bring broth to a boil and gauge (or measure, if you must) the quantity. You'll want about 8 - 10 cups of broth. Stir in 1 cup rice, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 20 minutes. Rice should be tender.

While the rice is cooking, debone the chicken, keeping the meat warm.

Once the rice is done, turn off the heat and pour 2 cups of broth into a bowl. You'll add this to the lemon and egg mixture at the end to temper the eggs.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with the salt. I use an electric hand-held mixer. When the eggs are thick, creamy and have a pale color, slowly mix in the lemon juice. Now, begin to ladle in the hot broth very slowly. Move the bowl next to your pot and slowly stir in the egg mixture into the broth. I use the ladle. Continue stirring, until everything is properly incorporated. Cover with the lid and allow to sit for a couple of minutes.

Ladle soup into bowls, top off with a generous amount of the chicken meat and dust liberally with the black pepper.

*Can substitute with 3-4 lbs chicken parts. The parts should be with bone and skin on, to release the most flavor. Also, please be sure to include the backs, which have mostly bones.