Cooking is a funny thing sometimes. Take today: I decided I’d spend some time making some good food to freeze/refrigerate for the week. Dish 1 was chicken-sausage gumbo; Dish 2 was avgolemono soup.
Dish 1 took me much of the afternoon and evening, in one way or another: cooking the chicken and sausage, making fresh chicken stock, making the roux (which, by the way, took its full 45 minutes of stirring but looked and smelled gorgeous), chopping and sauteeing the vegetables (cajun mirepoix – onions, celery, bell peppers – plus carrots and okra, garlic and habanero), and letting it all simmer with seasonings to perfection. The result, my roommate and I agreed, was a lovely gumbo, with countless overlapping layers of dark, rich flavor.
Dish 2 took me about twenty minutes and four ingredients. Its flavors weren’t as multifaceted and deep, but they achieved a balanced elegance that made it at least as appealing (though not as filling) as the gumbo. Creamy, bright, savory, and velvety on the tongue, it’s the kind of stylish dish I would happily serve to dinner guests. While I’ll certainly make gumbo again, avgolemono may just go on my regular cooking playlist – and, unlike the gumbo, it’s easy to make vegetarian. (Sorry, Brad; without the bacon-and-sausage cooking fat, the tender slivers of chicken thigh, or the juicy chunks of sausage, the gumbo wouldn’t have been the same.)
Avgolemono Soup (a not-perfectly-authentic rendition)
2 quarts good chicken broth, seasoned to taste*
8 oz. dry orzo, or about 1 1/4 cups
5 large eggs
juice from 3 lemons (about 1/2 cup)**
optional: lemon or dill to garnish
1) In a large pot, eat the broth to a rolling boil; add orzo and stir.
2) While the orzo cooks, whisk together the eggs, then whisk in the lemon juice until pale and slightly foamy.
3) Once the orzo is cooked (about 8 minutes), take the pot off the heat. Slowly pour a cup of broth into the egg mixture, whisking constantly, so that the resulting mixture is smooth and slightly warm.
4) Add the egg mixture to the broth, whisking constantly. Within a couple of minutes, the soup should become thicker, smooth, pale, and opaque.
5) Serve with an optional garnish of a thin slice of lemon or a sprig of fresh dill.
* – Because this is such a simple recipe, quality ingredients really matter. Homemade chicken broth is best, but if you want to substitute store-bought or vegetarian broth, make sure that it’s flavorful and delicious enough for you to drink by itself.
** – Again, quality matters, and there is a major difference between fresh-squeezed lemon juice and the bottled kind; use fresh lemons if at all possible. Also, the amount of lemon is up to you; half a cup gives it a noticeable lemon flavor without making the soup overly sour. If you want it to have a stronger kick, use up to a cup of lemon juice.