Thursday, June 30, 2011
Avgolemono Soup (Egg-Lemon Soup)
Welcome to the first installment of In My Mother-in-Law's Kitchen! My mother-in-law, Marilyn, was an amazing woman who made her own cheese, kombucha (before it was a fad), soup, family clothes (including Wayne's underwear - yes, I just went there - and snowboard pants), and more. I was handed literally hundreds of recipes when she and my father-in-law were killed last year.
As I'm working on compiling a cookbook for Marilyn's family with these recipes, I'm also trying my hand at as many of them as I can. Once a week, I'll post a recipe with my attempts at its creation. I'll try to gather stories from the recipes as well. Unfortunately, when I botch something up in the kitchen I won't be able to call her up and ask her how to fix it! But hopefully I can honor a small piece of her memory with this journey.
Okay, on to the first recipe. There is a very personal story associated with this one. Back in September 2006 when Wayne and I started dating, I was incredibly nervous about eventually doing the inevitable: meeting his mother. Wayne and I had known each other in high school and I knew her to be incredibly strict with her children. I was worried about feeling her judgment and not making a good impression.
In December of that year, during my Winter Break from teaching, Wayne and I drove up to Oregon to spend a week with his family. We arrived on a Wednesday night, in time for dinner. This added to my anxiety.
Wayne's parents lived on a farm. They were not wasteful people. Everything in their home, everything on their kitchen table, was wrought from their labor. I knew that Wayne and his brothers had always been taught to clean their plates.
I, on the other hand, had always been given encouraging nods if I even took just a few bites of food on any given day. My illness left me with no appetite and no real interest in food until after my kidney transplant. Getting enough calories was always a struggle, and cleaning a plate was practically unheard of. By the time I was a 25-year-old adult approaching the home of my future in-laws, I knew that my food habits could be considered rude.
What greeted me that night, though, were warm hugs and a bowl of this soup. From the first bite, I was in heaven. It was tangy, creamy, soothing. My mother-in-law looked on with pride as I had seconds and then thirds. I noticed Wayne wasn't eating his. "I've never liked this soup," he said. I think my jaw literally dropped to the floor, but I quickly recovered it and ate what was left in his bowl, too.
And with that, I'll offer a disclaimer that this soup isn't for everyone. Wayne doesn't like it. I love it. Marilyn - who copied her recipe card for me that very December night, not realizing that I would inherit her original card five years later - said it was one of her favorite soups. It's a MLL dish - Must Love Lemons.
So without further ado, here is the recipe!
8 cups chicken broth [Marilyn made her own, of course...I used the cardboard box variety from the store!]
1/3 cup rice, uncooked
4 eggs [Marilyn's chickens hatched 'em...mine came from Trader Joe's hens.]
1/4 lb butter [8T; I used unsalted]
1/4 cup arrow root powder [I used flour]
salt and pepper to taste
I halved the recipe, which serves 6-8, because I knew I was cooking for one and I wasn't sure it would turn out well.
Here are the steps:
Melt the butter in a small saucepan...
and mix in the arrow root powder or flour.
In a separate large pot, bring broth to a boil, add rice, and let simmer for 10 minutes.
Lower heat. Add butter mixture to the broth and boil for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
Beat together eggs and lemon juice.
(I know - all of my mixtures are looking very yellow.) Now for the hardest part: tempering the eggs! Add a spoonful of the hot broth to the egg/lemon juice mixture and stir in thoroughly.
Repeat a couple times before adding the mixture to the broth, slowly to avoid scrambling the eggs. Then salt and pepper to taste.
That's it! Super simple, although I have to admit that I had a few bits of scrambled eggs in mine because I wasn't totally successful at tempering! But it tasted wonderful!
So how did I do? Well, Wayne had a few bites to humor me and his response was, "This tastes just like Mom used to make. Now, where are the leftovers from lunch?" So while I wouldn't call this recipe a unanimous hit in my house, I would call it a universal success! It is so good - even more so because it makes me think of Marilyn. Give it a try!