I am the worst bride ever. It’s been nine months since the wedding, and it’s taken me that long to finish my thank-you cards. That’s how it goes when you do them three at a time, every few weeks, and I am terribly embarrassed that it’s taken this long. But tonight, with Nick away at a stag and nothing pulling me out of the house, and with two bottles of wine and a recipe from a cookbook I got as a wedding present, I got them done. All of them. Addressed, sealed, and stamped, all ready to go.
I am pretty sure you can do anything if the meal is right, and today, without anyone demanding meat hunks or cheese-covered miscellany, the meal was perfect. Please don’t think I am in any way against meat or cheese – my two favourite things. Sometimes, though, it’s nice to play with other flavours. Today I found some rainbowriffic tomatoes at the market, and some fat, fragrant lemons. And basil, which is my favourite kind of leaf. And it was hot out, but not too hot, especially as dusk began to fall, so soup was more desirable than it’s been in a long time, and I’d missed it.
Avgolemono is a kind of soup. It’s easy, though it seems fussy, and it tastes like it would be perfect if you were in the early stages of a cold, or if you were a few days into a flu. It’s quite lovely, with a soft chicken taste, framed by lemons, and made rich with egg yolks. Apparently it’s Greek. I’ve had it in restaurants before, and though it seems like a fancypants dish, it’s very simple. Very few ingredients. And you can taste everything in it.
This recipe comes from the Williams-Sonoma cookbook, which I got as a wedding gift. It’s quite a good book, and everything in it is completely doable. I halved the recipe, as it serves four, but I’m going to give the full recipe, with tweaks.
(Adapted from The Williams-Sonoma Cookbook. Serves four.)
- 6 cups chicken stock
- 1/2 cup jasmine or long-grain white rice
- 4 egg yolks, lightly beaten
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (approximately two lemons)
- 1 tsp. lemon zest
- 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
- Salt and white pepper, to taste
- 2 tbsp. fresh chopped parsley
In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the chicken stock to a boil. Add the rice and boil, uncovered, for about 15 minutes or until tender. Remove from heat, and add lemon juice.
In a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks, lemon zest, nutmeg, and cayenne pepper. Scoop out a cup of the hot liquid and add it gradually to the egg yolk mixture, whisking as you pour. This is tempering. It sounds harder than it actually is, I think.
Pour your tempered egg mixture into the hot liquid. Return to heat and reduce to medium. Stir, cooking another three to four minutes, until the soup has thickened slightly. Don’t let it boil. If it boils, you could scramble the eggs, and then they’ll look like sneeze. That would be a heart-breaking disappointment. When you smell this, you’ll understand what I mean. Salt and pepper, to taste.
Pour soup into bowls and top with chopped parsley. Or basil. That’d be good too. Drizzle with olive oil and serve with very good bread, fresh tomato salad, and chilled prosecco. And breathe a sigh of relief, especially if this is your reward for crossing one big red late item off your task list. And then eat a pint or so of concord grapes while whipping up a batch of “You don’t suck, you’re awesome!” brownies.