Wednesday, December 19, 2007



Simple Pleasures

Yesterday I developed what my mother always called a ‘splitting headache’ and I really felt very sorry for myself. The children had made messes in every room, Justin had failed to clean up after a most fabulous dinner* last night, and the baby wouldn’t have his nap. I was just about to have a nervous breakdown when I bethought me of the chicken broth I’d made a few days before. I’ve recently begun cutting up whole chickens rather than buying parts, and I often have small amounts of broth made from backs, necks, and wings, which is very useful. This time I had just a bit over 2 cups of broth, and happily that’s about how hungry I was. So I put the broth on to heat and inspiration hit: why not juice a lemon, whisk it with an egg, and temper this mixture into the broth? In short, why not try making an avgolemono soup? I’d seen recipes before, but instead of looking one up I cooked by instinct, and it paid off. The soup was simple, yet delicious, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Afterwards, Robin brought in the mail and amidst the bills and junk mail I found a Christmas card. The soup and the card were sufficiently healing that I was able to tidy up the downstairs while the children played upstairs. But I didn’t make dinner. Instead I gave the children leftovers and Justin and I got Chinese carryout. In which I found a bug. Seriously.

Here is how to make avgolemono:

Start with 2-3 cups of chicken broth. If you don’t have homemade, commercial is fine, but I would add a few sprigs of fresh thyme, or a teaspoon or two of dried. I happen to think thyme goes very well with lemon, but if you have another favorite herb use it instead to perk up the broth. In any case, put the broth on low heat. In a small bowl, whisk one egg with the juice of one lemon. When the soup begins to steam, add a spoonful to the egg and whisk. Add another spoonful and whisk, and yet another, whisking each time. When the egg mixture is warm, add it to the hot broth, whisking all the while, and heat until slightly thickened and steaming. Keep the heat very low indeed, and don’t let the broth quite reach a simmer or your eggs will curdle. If they do, don’t worry! Simply pour the soup through a sieve into your bowl. Or, leave them in – they’re basically just soft scrambled eggs and it’s up to you whether you enjoy their presence or not.

*the fabulous dinner was chicken cutlets with tarragon leek pan sauce, buttered papparadelle noodles, and perfectly cooked peas with shallots and mint, and it created a LOT of dirty dishes. Dinner tonight is simply pasta with spinach and parmesan, and a little dusting of nutmeg. And perhaps the tiniest splash of cream.

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