When I was a preschooler, my dad was a busy guy. He travelled a lot on business and even when in town, he worked long hours and even some Saturdays. So when Sundays rolled around, he was usually in a pretty good mood and we would eat lunch while watching old movies. I guess that one reason why I’m such a fan of The Marx Brothers today.
One of my fondest childhood memories is having avgolemono soup on TV trays in front of our black and white TV for Sunday lunch. For some reason, I can only remember having avgolemono on those metal TV trays but I’m fairly certain we must have eaten it at the official dinner table at some point. The whole thing — Dad being in a great mood (and laughing heartily!), The Marx Brothers, not having to eat at the regular table, and the avgolemono — all came together to form a simple but special memory.
Avgolemono means “egg and lemon” in Greek, but please don’t be put off by the name. The soup is so much more than what you might think… sour watery eggs heated up. “Real” avgolemono takes two days to make properly and is basically chicken and rice soup that is cooled down and then reheated the next day with some extra ingredients. The Greeks invented food and cuisine so you know it’s got to be good. This ten-minute recipe is a simple shortcut that probably causes my Yiayia [Grandma], who used to make this delicacy in the traditional two-day “old school” way, to flip over in her grave.
What You’ll Need
- 1 can of Campbell’s chicken and rice soup
- 2 eggs
- The juice of half a lemon or the equivalent in fresh lime juice, RealLemon, or RealLime. You could even try some other citrus juice, like orange or grapefruit (but I never have). I use the juice of a whole lemon but unless you are Greek or otherwise predisposed to weapons-grade citrus flavours, try it with the juice of half a lemon first.
- Black pepper, dried mint, and dried oregano
- Diced cooked chicken (optional)
What To Do
- Put the chicken and rice soup into a pot but do not add the water that the directions on the label tell you to add. Also, do not turn on the heat just yet!
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, citrus juice, the herbs, and the pepper thoroughly.
- Add the egg and lemon mixture to the soup and heat on a low flame, stirring constantly. If you’re adding extra cooked chicken, stir it in after adding the egg and lemon mixture…. the chunks will make it more difficult to mix the egg and lemon mixture thoroughly.
- You will notice that the soup will suddenly thicken, at which point remove the pot from the stove and pour into bowls.
Paying attention to how hot and thick the soup is becoming in Step #4 is the “Grecian key” to a successful avgolemono. Once the soup gets too hot the eggs will begin to solidify, as in egg drop soup, and it will lose its creamy thickness. If you happen to overheat it to the point where the egg forms strings, you can still eat it but it won’t be quite as creamy. Learn from your mistakes and show some restraint the next time you make it!
Don’t be tempted to leave the pot on the stove for a minute while you get the serving bowls out of the cupboard because the heat of the electric element, or even the metal grid that holds the pot above the now-extinguished gas flame, will hold enough heat to precipitate the egg whites. I recommend setting up the bowls before you turn on the flame under the pot.
Serve with crusty French bread in front of a TV playing a good Marx Brothers movie, such as A Night at the Opera or Duck Soup. The Laurel and Hardy film The Music Box is a good substitute if you don’t have any Marx Brothers on hand.
Extra Holiday Bonus Variation
If, for some strange reason, you happen to roast a turkey in the coming weeks and have a carcass and a bunch of leftover turkey bits that you don’t know what to do with, make turkey soup! The next day when it has cooled off, use your homemade soup in this recipe instead of the canned stuff. If you make a very rich broth and add rice to it, your turkey avgolemono will turn our really great and just may be the start of a whole new Boxing Day tradition… make my Yiayia proud!