Avgolemono (Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup) Recipe

Photo Credit: AS Food studio/Shutterstock

It was the summer of 1993, a couple of months before my sophomore year of high school, and I desperately wanted a job. A job meant money, and money meant freedom. Not having to rely on my parents for allowance was the dream.

One day, I spied a “Help Wanted” sign in the window of a restaurant in Hollywood, a block west of Paramount Pictures and just a few blocks from my house. I walked to the restaurant the next day and asked for an application from the cashier. She would later become one of my favorite co-workers, a young Armenian girl named Mary with a big, bright smile and equally bright marigold hair. I filled out the application and turned it in to Mary, who called the manager over.

Manoli came out from behind the counter and invited me to sit with him at a booth. I instantly liked him. Even though he had a somber face, his manner was kind, and I soon came to appreciate what a good guy and boss he was. I don’t remember anything about our conversation except that he hired me on the spot. As someone who’d never had a job before, I was surprised, and I wondered if it was always this easy to get one.

It's All Greek to Me

Even though the place was technically a fast-food burger joint, a good portion of the menu consisted of Greek dishes. Manoli prepared all the Greek foods like dolmades, spanakopita, and baklava. It was my introduction to Greek cuisine and I’ve loved it ever since. I remember the first time I watched Manoli make baklava, laying down layer after layer after layer of phyllo dough, carefully brushing each one with honey syrup, and I marveled at the patience it takes to make what is now one of my favorite desserts.

When I’m in the area, I try to stop by the restaurant and get some rizogalo or baklava to go. I always ask if Manoli is around so I can say hi, and it usually takes him a second or so to recognize me. These days, Manoli’s hair is mostly silver, his now-lined face is still somber, and he moves a bit slower than he used to. I still remember him telling me almost 30 years ago that he dreamed of running his own restaurant and that he was planning to open his own place. I guess he hasn’t gotten around to it yet.

Because I don’t go to Hollywood very often these days, I’ve had to make my own avgolemono, a classic Greek soup made with chicken broth, eggs, and lemon juice. I look forward to the day I can sit at a table at Manoli’s restaurant and order this delicious and creamy soup, but until then, I’ll have to make do with my own homemade version.

Ingredients (serves 6)

* 8 cups chicken broth

* 4 cups water

* 1 cup orzo pasta

* 2 pounds rotisserie chicken meat, coarsely shredded

* 4 eggs

* 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

* 1 Tablespoon grated lemon zest

* Salt and pepper

* 1 Tablespoon chopped parsley

Directions

 1.    In a large pot, bring chicken broth and water to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and add orzo. Cook uncovered for 15 minutes.

 2.    Stir in chicken and cook for another 5 minutes.

 3.    Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk eggs, then add lemon juice and zest.

 4.    Temper the eggs by slowly stirring about half a cup of the chicken broth (from the pot) into the egg mixture.

 5.    Reduce heat to low and slowly stir the tempered egg mixture into the soup.

 6.    Add salt and pepper to taste.

 7.    Stir in parsley and serve.


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