You might not think of making a pot of chicken broth on a warm summer day, but I suggest it anyhow. There are just so many fast, flavorful meals that spin out of one simple stockpot, for several days into the week, that it’s the perfect summer Sunday move. Plop a chicken in a pot, add pleasantly salty water, set it on the burner to simmer, and head out to work in your garden. When you come back in, mosquito-bitten and starving, you’ll have tender chicken, fragrant broth, and several options for what to make for dinner. (Especially if you’re harvesting vegetables from that garden!)
First up: Avgolemono, or Greek Egg Lemon Soup. Magically restorative like its culinary cousins chicken noodle and matzo ball, avgolemono’s chicken comfort feels just right in spring and summer thanks to a generous squeeze of lemon. It’s traditional to serve plain—just rice, egg yolk, lemon, sometimes with little pieces of chicken—but I love it studded with quickly sauteed seasonal vegetables. Any combination will do: asparagus, chives, mushrooms, carrots, artichoke hearts, peas, fava beans, green beans, pea shoots, spinach…on and on, changing as the season goes along.
It’s a little bit amazing what the addition of a few egg yolks does to a pot of broth—think smooth and creamy, without one drop of cream. Despite its velvety texture, this soup is quite light on calories.
For a simple pasta primavera—also making use of that lovely broth and chicken—see my personal blog Fresh Tart.
Avgolemono (Greek Egg Lemon Soup)
1 quart simple chicken broth (see below)
1/4 c. long grain white rice
3 large egg yolks
1/4 c. freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 c. diced seasonal vegetables (any seasonal combination of asparagus, mushrooms, peppers, carrots, artichoke hearts, shelled fava beans, peas, green beans, spinach, kale etc.)
2 c. bite-sized pieces of cooked chicken (from making broth, below)
freshly grated nutmeg
minced chives, dill, or mint for garnish
Set a large saucepan over medium-high heat and add chicken broth and rice. Bring to boil, turn heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes until rice is tender.
While broth and rice simmer, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and when hot, add diced vegetables to the pan. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and saute until tender-crisp, about 5-7 minutes. Remove pan from heat and set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks and lemon juice.
When rice is tender, whisk a ladleful of hot broth into the egg yolk mixture to temper it, then whisk the egg yolk mixture into the hot broth. Heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently, without bringing to a boil. Remove pan from heat and season with salt to taste.
To serve, divide sauteed vegetables and chicken pieces among 4 bowls. Ladle hot broth and rice over the vegetables. Garnish each bowl with freshly grated nutmeg and minced herbs and serve immediately.
Simple Chicken Broth
Makes about 2 quarts
One whole free-range chicken, rinsed & patted dry
Add chicken to an 8-quart stockpot. Pour in water to just cover the chicken (depending on the size of your chicken, 2-3 quarts of water) along with 2 tsp. of salt. Bring water to a boil over medium high heat, then turn to low. Simmer gently, partially covered, for 1 1/2 hours or until chicken is tender. Remove from heat and let chicken sit in the broth until cool.
Remove chicken to a cutting board (it will likely break apart, which is fine). Pull chicken apart into bite-sized pieces and reserve, discarding skin, bones, and fat.
Strain broth. Cover and refrigerate both chicken and broth for up to one week. Broth can be frozen.