lemony chicken soup with rice


In February it will be
My snowman’s anniversary
With cake for him and soup for me!
Happy once, happy twice
Happy chicken soup with rice!

–Carole King, “Chicken Soup with Rice”

Everyone should have one quick chicken soup in the ol’ repertoire.  This is mine.  When we are sick, the last thing I want to do is cook, so I pull out a quart of chicken stock from the freezer and heat up my version of avgolemono, the Greek chicken soup with rice, egg, and lemon.  We all know that chicken broth is the universal panacea, but I particularly like the easily digestible rice, plus the nice punch of the lemon that can cut through dulled tastebuds.  Some people add chopped chicken for a more hearty meal, and I recommend this if you have it on hand.  This recipe is easily doubled for larger families, but it can’t be frozen.

Lemon:  Lemons are wildly variable in juice and acid levels (the latter being why you should use the standardized bottled lemon juice for canning tomatoes).  I call for one lemon here, but you should use your judgment.  Adding half the lemon in the beginning and half at the end gives two dimensions to the lemony flavor.  The cooked lemon infuses the rice, while the raw lemon brightens up the soup.

Salt:  When using unsalted frozen stock, it’s necessary to add more salt than you think you might need.  If your soup tastes bland and sour, add more salt to balance the lemon.  I always find myself adjusting this one at the last minute.

You’ll be up and singing again in no time.  I promise.

Lemony Chicken Soup with Rice

Serves one grumpy, snuffly husband and you.

4-5 c. chicken stock, preferably homemade*
1/2 c. basmati rice
2 eggs, separated
1 juicy lemon
white pepper and salt to taste
some fresh herbs for color: parsley, Greek oregano, chives, etc. (optional)

Defrost stock, if necessary.  Juice the lemon and divide into two equal portions.  In medium pot, add stock, raw rice, half of the lemon juice, salt and white pepper.  Simmer the rice in the chicken stock until it is tender and swollen.

As soup is cooking, separate egg whites and egg yolks into two bowls.  The yolks should be in a bowl large enough for 2 cups of liquid.

When rice is cooked and soup is ready to be served, whisk egg yolks until creamy.   Scoop out a cup or two of the chicken stock, and whisk quickly into the bowl of egg yolks.  Pour mixture into soup and stir until well blended.

Now comes the fun part: the egg whites.  Do one of two things:  (1)  Stir the soup so it forms a whirpool in the center, then add egg whites in stream. Keep stirring in one direction until the eggs form long strands that look pretty and swirly. Or (2) if you don’t like the Egg Drop Soup look, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form, then remove soup from heat and fold eggwhites into the soup.  Whisk soup until creamy if the egg whites curdle.

Just before serving, add the rest of the lemon juice. Adjust seasonings and stir in any chopped, fresh green herbs you might have.  I usually add a few tablespoons of chopped parsley and some oregano.

* This is easier than you might think. Seriously.  Even if you don’t cook.  Your family will thank you.  All you need to do, at the bare minimum, is save the carcass from a roast chicken — even one of those supermarket ones — and throw it in your slow cooker with an onion cut in half, two carrots and two celery stalks. Add water to about 2/3 full, and cook on low all day. Use right away or freeze in tupperware in 2-cup blocks. You should skim the fat off the top before using or freezing.