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What's the best rice to use for Avgolemono?

I was thinking about using Orzo, but I also have Basmati and River medium white in the pantry. Ideas?

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  1. Orzo isn't rice, it is pasta.
    Basmati would be my choice

      1. I've made it with rice and orzo. I prefer orzo, but when I used rice it was a rice I bought at a Middle Eastern grocery store.
        I have no idea what kind of rice it is, but its fantastic.
        It comes in a plastic Baggie labeled rice for pilaf....funny
        I love ethnic grocery stores.

        1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avgolemono

          I prefer the short grain rice for it's absorbency - arborio or Bomba

          1. Any of them will work fine. That said, Basmati tends to break up and get mushy when in the soup for long.

            1. Long grained white rice, and arborio, are both suitable.

              1. any rice works fine. the point is that you don't add too much as to make a gloppy mess of a soup. It should still be soupy when done. That's one reason why I don't sub orzo for rice. it gets gloppy and too thick, not a soup, but more like wallpaper paste.

                Use your Basmati. I do if I have it on hand. It works well.

                1. The versions I've had in restaurants usually have orzo pasta. Does anyone have a good avgolemono recipe to share?

                  1. I've been making it a lot lately. And I use orzo. Bring four cups of chicken broth to a boil, add orzo and cook 7 minutes (or rice for about 20). While that's cooking whisk three eggs and 3 tablespoons of lemon juice. When the orzo is cooked, turn the heat to simmer. Add one cup of hot broth to the lemon/egg mixture. Whisk for a minute or two to cook the eggs and incorporate. Then add that mixture back into the pot. Season with salt and pepper. That's it. So simple. So good. I add a bit of fresh dill.....

                    1 Reply
                    1. This is a slightly more complicated and "Americanized" recipe for a simple soup, but the flavor is really, really good and makes the Avgolemono more worth it than just bulking it up with gloppy pasta:


                      30 Replies
                      1. re: Gastronomos

                        I've been told that the egg should be separated and the white whisked and added separately. I tried that once but didn't see any real difference.

                        I see in this book that orzo does seem to be the traditional starch?

                        1. re: coll

                          Please, go ahead and make it with orzo.

                          I assure you, even in Greece, it is MUCH more filling than rice.

                          Soup in Greece is/was an entire meal, not a start. It needs to be filling.

                          My family recipes on both my moms side and my dads side all use rice, never orzo.

                          My M-I-L uses orzo, and enough to fill your belly for the whole day. She came from a remote mountain village where poverty was a way of life, pasta shows up in strange places in her cookery. Spaghetti gets boiled till quite bloated, drained and rinsed and topped with the dried ricotta type cheese of the region. Even the ricotta was made from the whey that was left over from cheese making. Cheese sold at market and the whey "re-cooked". Even after this, the second watery whey is consumed as a drink. Poverty will make it all stretch out quite far.

                          Michael Psilakis DOES make his avgolemono soup with orzo, if not making the rice meatballs. If that is what many are used to getting in a greek diner and he gave a recipe for rice, which would be a much thinner and not gloppy soup, those that tried the recipe would be disappointed.

                          I don't fear that end, as I'm not selling a cookbook, just sharing a true traditional recipe.

                          1. re: Gastronomos

                            Thanks for the info because yes, I only know this soup from restaurants and diners. Good to hear from the horse's mouth.

                            I put very little orzo in myself, maybe a handful to a big pot of broth, but I could see also adding more and making a meal out of it. When it's first cooked, the orzo isn't all that noticeable in mine, but if you let the leftovers sit overnight, it does blow up considerably. I wouldn't call it "gloppy", more like "substantial".

                            My husband is not a fan of rice so I'll have to keep doing it the weird way I guess. Since this is one of his favorite home made soups now.

                            1. re: coll

                              coll, I'm just picky because I didn't encounter orzo in avgolemono until I was an adult.

                              It is a great soup, even with orzo.
                              It's been my experience that some places make it too thick and gloppy as does my M-I-L.

                              When I used to join the in-laws for Sunday dinner at the local diner, it seemed that many of the diners had "cream of turkey" as the soup of the day. Truly, the only place I have ever had a bowl of flour soup with LOTS of orzo in it. OK, some had a hint of turkey flavor. Do you know of any "cream-of" soup recipes that have orzo in them?

                              1. re: Gastronomos

                                Orzo is cheap, but making stock out of bones is even cheaper, and goes farther. Unless they were buying the stock canned, maybe.

                                But then, in the end, orzo is definitely cheaper than any real dairy product so that's probably why. Hey it's white, just like cream!! If I cook it long enough, it will melt!! (I used to sell food to several Greek diners so I sort of know how they plan their menus).

                                1. re: coll

                                  Yep. And all diners I know use hot water and chicken base. I know of none around us, coll, that make stock or broth.

                                  1. re: Gastronomos

                                    Me neither, but I thought it was just me, and my particular customers. You're right, they love their bases.

                                    1. re: coll

                                      Just to be fair in the rice or orzo camp, (I like to argue both sides of a discussion:-) I'll post a pic of an avgolemono "soup" with WAY too much rice in it. (and it is WAY overcooked as well)
                                      This pic does, though, show shredded chicken in the soup, which is how I grew up eating it as mom and dad would boil a whole chicken, make the soup and add the shredded chicken back into the rich soup. I only suggest that no one believe that this amount of rice (or orzo) is typical of Greek Cuisine.

                                      1. re: Gastronomos

                                        Interesting! Looks like rice pudding; or chicken stew, heavy on the rice, to me, but I'm sure it tastes good either way. I like mine as mainly a broth, but as you know I wasn't brought up eating it so what do I know? Never saw anything like this.

                                        1. re: coll

                                          This pic (orzo or rice) is more typical of what it should look like, more or less:

                                            1. re: Gastronomos

                                              There are soooooo many recipes and traditions for avgolemono that it can (and does!) get quite confusing!

                                              One of the factors that confuses people so is that there is both a traditional avgolemono SAUCE, and then there is the traditional avgolemono SOUP that in traditional form is more like a very thick avgolemono rice porridge.

                                              I learned to make traditional avgolemono "soup" from my landlady when I lived in Greece. And that is still the way I make it today. The whole fresh chicken (often a home grown rooster) is put in a "snug fitting" kettle with lots of carrots and quartered onions with enough of the root end intact to keep them from breaking apart during the boil. Then salt, peppercorns, MAYBE a bay leaf and such are added, along with enough water to completely submerge the chicken.

                                              The chicken is then boiled until ALMOST falling off the bone, but it should hold together so it can be transferred to a rack in a roasting pan. The boiled chicken is then popped into a very hot oven for the skin to crisp while the stock is tended to.

                                              First off, fish out all of the onions and carrots and set aside. Then add the rice or orzo, as you choose. When the rice/orzo is done, then whisk two or three eggs and a half cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice in a medium sized bowl. Turn off heat under soup. "Temper" the egg mixture by slowly whisking in a cup or two of the hot soup, stirring and whisking all the while. If you goof up on this procedure you can expect Chinese Egg Drop soup instead of avgolemono! When the eggs are properly tempered, add to the soup stirring constantly until the rice porridge/soup is fully thickened. Should you need to bring the temperature of the soup up more, or if you wish to reheat any leftovers later, be VERY careful not to allow it to come to a boil or it will "break". Transfer the "roast" chicken to a serving platter and surround with the carrots. You can include the onions if you wish, or serve them in a separate bowl, or discard them, as you wish. In this tradition, the soup is served as a first course, with the chicken and carrots as the main.

                                              ORRRR... It can also be served as a main course with the chicken deboned and shredded and added back into the soup, but in both cases, the soup should be very thick with lots of rice/orzo. In Greece, avgolemono "soup" is often the entire meal, both in restaurants and in friend's homes. Its somewhat similar to the rich chunky supremely filling Italian soups that can make a filling and simple meal.

                                              Authentic GREEK avgolemono soup should be very thick. I've long since stopped ordering it in restaurants because I have never had "proper" avgolemono soup in ANY restaurant, Greek or otherwise, in the U.S. that is not thin and almost watery compared to every avgolemono soup I had in Greece. But keep in mind that every family often develops their own style.

                                              Maybe if I had lived in Thessaly instead of on the Peloponnesus, the Greek food I experienced and came quickly to love would have been a bit different, but I tend to doubt it because there wasn't much on the mainland of Greece (including the Thessaly) that we didn't go to, usually as guests of Greek military friends, and we ate both in their homes and local restaurants. But I NEVER had Greek food in any of the luxury hotels in Athens. I just knew I wouldn't be getting the real thing in those places... '-)

                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                Thank you for a very thoughtful post. It truly tempers the broth...
                                                Caroline1, Where in the Peloponnese did you live?

                                                1. re: Gastronomos

                                                  We lived in Vartholomio, a small village just north of Patra, and about a half hour's drive from Ancient Olympia. My great good fortune was having weekdays, when my husband was at work, all to myself and a rental car with unlimited mileage and free gas! As a former archaeology/Classics major, I spent about two days a wkk at ancient Olympia rambling in and about The Sacred Grove.

                                                  And that (ancient Olympia) is also where I had the absolute worst "pizza" of my entire life! I bought it from a "food truck" parked outside the gates into the ancient ruins, and several natives told me they had "great" pizza. JOKE! It was about five inches round, terrible dough with an abundance of corn meal stuck to it and the "sauce" was applied with a PAM canister! Just barely enough to color the bread! It was served in a waxed bag. It tasted like it had been air dried for two weeks before making it aboard the food truck. NEVERTHELESS, that really nasty pizza holds a special place in my heart. It tasted exactly like I would imagine an ancient discus from the ancient Olympic games would taste! You can't hardly get a more appropriate meal than that! '-)

                                                  And just for the record, we lived there before the Rio Antirio Bridge was built, which is a major accomplishment in the world of bridge building. It spans the Gulf of Corinth, thus making it a LOT easier to cover all of Greece without going way out of your way to cross the Isthmus of Corinth. Still and all, I'm really glad we lived there when we did, because when it comes to travel, we had to do much of it the old fashioned way on ferry boats and barges, and even driving across long spans of cart paths and being locked behind flocks of hundreds of sheep being driven to market in Amaliades, where they were slaughtered, dressed, and sold each morning.

                                                  It was a real joy living there then, but I fear that even Greeks native to the area today can no longer capture the sensations of ancient Greece that were available then. There are new (not necessarily "better") museums at both ancient Olympia and ancient Delphi, with "improved" roads to get tourists in. Concrete and asphalt are the enemy! I don't think Greece moving into modern times through the European Union and such is doing much to warm the cockles of the hearts of most archaeologists and Classicist of today. I'm so fortunate to have lived there when I did.

                                                  And to keep it (sort of) on food, for those of you who may be travelling to Greece and want to try authentic food, ALWAYS look for small neighborhood restaurants where all of the customers are Greek! No matter that you don't speak Greek. They will take you to the kitchen where the cook will open every pot and sauce pan to let you see (and smell!!!)what is available, and all you have to do is point! It was in a small village restaurant near Nafplion that we had the most memorable restaurant food in the whole time we lived there. And to this day, I have no idea what many of those dishes are called... Wonderful way to eat. '-)

                                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                                    Ok, that explains it! :)

                                                    I've spent some time with friends who live in the Ancient Olympia area, and the food traditions are very different than the food traditions of the Aegean Islands. I think the porridge type Avgolemono is a Peloponnesian type. I'm sure it's traditional, but no Peloponnesian-style foods I've tried in Greece or in Greek homes taste like the traditional island recipes I love the most. Kind of like comparing Friulian food to Sicilian food, if you ask me .:).

                                                    I know I have an island bias, but I much prefer the foods of Crete, Rhodes and some other islands to the mainland versions.

                                                    YMMV! :)

                                                    1. re: prima

                                                      We (I) intentionally avoided most of the Greek Islands, with the exception of Poros. Why Poros? Well, it's so darn close the Greek mainland, a swimmer can make it fairly easily. And THAT island holds special interest for me because in Greek mythology, that is the island where Theseus' mother purportedly "trysted" with the king of Athens, thinking him a god, or in some legends Theseus is the demigod son of Poseidon. The ruins of the Temple of Poseidon, where the tryst purportedly took place, dates back to at least 520BCE, and when I was there you could still look out over the Aegean through pine trees and feel the passage of time. ANNNNDDDD.... there is/was a row of outdoor restaurants along the harbor front where we had a most memorable breakfast!

                                                      Our travels and adventures covered all of the ancient sites on the Greek mainland with the exception of Thessaloniki, which I somewhat regret, but hey, we had less than a full year to work it all in, which takes some doing, even with the help of practically every Greek we met! A most gracious people!!!.

                                                      One of my interests was the ways in which food and cultures have "layered" upon each other in the areas that comprised "ancient Greece," which in today's maps includes Greece and Turkey. It's difficult to get a firm handle on the foods of the ancients with recipes attached, but there is a lot of information from the writers of classical times, and I even have a recipe for bread from the 3rd century AD.

                                                      It is the nature of man to take what he likes and make it his own. That is especially true of food. In ancient times, when conquering armies passed through, if there was a good cook in the army or in the camp followers, you can be sure the recipe took root and remained long after the army moved on and was forgotten.

                                                      The ONLY food throughout history that did NOT catch on with others is the Black Soup of the ancient Spartans. It was reviled throughout the known world, but then the ancient Spartans were a peculiar lot in no uncertain terms! We are all blessed that Black Soup left no trace footprint in our diets!

                                                      The strongest imprint from armies of old and semi-old in that part of the world today is the food of the Turkish royal court from the times of the Ottoman Empire, and it is recognizable in many dishes ranging from today's Eastern European countries all the way to modern day Israel and even Egypt.

                                                      So yeah, there are probably as many variations of avgolemono as there are cooks in Greece! Not to mention Greek cooks who left Greece for other lands!

                                                      My favorite and most poignant brush with avgolemono was the occasion when the recipe was handed on to me by Vaso and Gregoris. our landlords and friends. The invitation to dinner was extended by their daughter, who brought her pet and prize rooster in her arms to introduce him to me the day before. She announced that in our honor, she was pleased to offer him up to the pot the following evening. I was so touched at dinner I could hardly keep from crying when I thought of her sacrifice. She LOVED that darn bird!

                                                      Anywaay, avgolemono should be made as you like it. It's a widely travelled dish! '-)

                                                      For all of you bread bakers out there who would like to take a shot at ancient Greek "ψωμί," here it is:
                                                      3rd Century CE Greek bread as described by Athenais

                                                      2 cups warm water or scalded milk (cooled to warm)
                                                      2 tsp salt
                                                      1 Tbsp honey
                                                      2 Tbsp olive oil
                                                      2 Tbsp barley meal
                                                      6 cups flour: barley, or stone ground whole wheat

                                                      Mix all ingredients except flour in a 2 quart jar. Place jar in a pan of hot water and let stand in a warm place until fermentation begins (12 hours or more) keeping water warm (NOT hot!) to aid process.

                                                      Mix in 2 cups of flour and return to warm place to form a sponge (4 to 6 hours minimum).

                                                      Put 4 cups flour in a bowl, make a well, add sponge. Knead well until smooth. Shape and put into oiled loaf pans for baking. Cover with a damp towel and place in a warm draft free place to rise for 4 to 6 h ours. It will not rise as high as modern breads.

                                                      Bake in preheated 375F oven for 10 minutes, reduce heat to 350F and bake for 50 minutes.

                                                      Recipe from "The Complete Greek Cookbook, The Best From 3000 Years of Greek Cooking" by Theresa Karas Yianilos

                                                      If you like Greek food, this is a recipe book not to be missed!

                                                2. re: Caroline1

                                                  In my experience, there is a huge variation in the thickness of "traditional" avgolemono soups. I would think the rice porridge-type would have been be more common in less affluent households/communities/regions, whereas the eggier, smoother type might be more common in more affluent parts of Greece or in more affluent households/communities.

                                                  1. re: prima

                                                    That is interesting, my family makes a smooth eggier version with very little rice. My grandmother had a governess so I am guessing they were not poor. I never saw that thick congee like version before, even in various parts of Greece.

                                            2. re: Gastronomos

                                              And restaurants add cornstarch so it won't curdle while reheating, and cut back on eggs! Cornstarch is never added to my version. I just use homemade chicken or turkey stock, eggs, lemon juice and orzo (or sometimes vermicelli).

                                    2. re: coll

                                      The avgolemono can be lighter, smoother and frothier, if you separate the eggs. It's more labour-intensive than I like, so I just add unseparated beaten egg.

                                      I think some families use more rice, others use more orzo. I grew up with the orzo version (not a gloppy textured soup, just cooked until the orzo is done, then the eggs are added. Same amount of orzo is added as if it had been rice, so I doubt any bowl of soup has more than a a couple tbsp of cooked orzo), and I prefer it to the rice version, which is the most common version in restaurants where I live.

                                      1. re: prima

                                        Is there a certain technique to adding the separated eggs? Like I said, I did it once after hearing about it, but it didn't seem all that much different to me.

                                        1. re: coll

                                          Some recipes call for whipping the whites until stiff, others call for whipping until soft peaks. I usually only separate the eggs when I'm making the thicker, richer, eggier avgolemono sauce for dolmades, and I probably whip them closer to soft peaks than stiff peaks.

                                          I haven't tried this recipe, but it looks like a recipe that will create a soup with a foamier/frothier texture, when you whip the eggs separately. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/06/din...

                                          Found these 3 methods for avgolemono sauce (whole eggs beaten, yolks only, or whip whites then add beaten yolks)mentioned on Gourmed, could easily apply the method to the soup instead of the sauce! http://www.gourmed.com/how-make-avgol...

                                          1. re: prima

                                            prima, you mention avgolemono sauce as well as a thickener for soup. mom never made anything "avgolemono" other than chicken soup and dad made the same but with lamb stock (using the head of the lamb that we never spit roasted for Pascha, but used the night before for avgolemono soup after coming home from Midnight Liturgy.)
                                            My MIL makes dolmades avgolemono, grape leaves and cabbage. Her "avgolemono sauce" is a watery thin, slightly lemony mess.
                                            My question is, since you state you don't use cornstarch as a stabilizer in your soup, do you thicken your avgolemono sauce beyond the egg?

                                            1. re: Gastronomos

                                              I don't thicken it beyond adding egg. I did notice one Greek Cdn blogger adds flour http://www.kalofagas.ca/2008/01/18/av..., which I've never tried. Since I like an almost velvety avgolemono that's roughly the same thickness as creme anglaise, no other thickeners apart from egg, but it also means reheating it without curdling is next to impossible, so I always make it a la minute. Usually, for a quart of broth, we use 2 to 3 large eggs.

                                              Too bad your MIL's sauce is a watery mess. I like a foamy avgolemono sauce with my grapeleaves, similar to a lemony, foamy savoury sabayon!

                                              1. re: prima

                                                I asked cause we don't really do avgolemono much in the regions of Greece my family is from.
                                                Since my MIL is from a completely different region, her food is quite different than ours. I'm sometimes fascinated by her bringing a cold chicken in cold water just to the boil, draining it of the cloudy water, rinsing it thoroughly, and, again, adding cold water and the chicken back to the pot, simmering for maybe 10 minutes, removing the chicken to prepare it for roasting in the oven with potatoes and continuing with the pot of wet sock stock and a LOT of orzo to make "avgolemono", two eggs and one lemon. No salt, no nothing else. A huge difference from the cooking of my family. And since this orzo vs. rice discussion is taking place, I am intrigued by the regional differences throughout Greece and the Greek Diaspora. Of course I am always aware of this and I see it everywhere, but I thought I'd ask.

                                                1. re: Gastronomos

                                                  Which part is your MIL from? My recipe/approach is from Mytilene. In addition to more eggs:broth, we also use more almonds:flour in our cookies, compared to most of the Peloponnesian family recipes I've tasted.

                                                  1. re: prima

                                                    Ok. That explains a lot. We are islanders as well. We trace our roots back to Byzantium, on both sides of my family.

                                                    My MIL and FIL are from The Peloponnese. Roots from slavic north.

                                                    She uses walnuts, we use almonds. And that's not a minor thing, and only a start.

                                                    I shoulda married an Islander...

                                                  2. re: Gastronomos

                                                    I only use eggs too, thickens it perfectly for my taste.

                                    3. The primary starch used in Greece is rice. White rice, not brown, and certainly not a basmati or jasmine rice or other strong flavored rice. I use CalRose, a short/medium grain white rice that makes delicious traditional sushi, really yummy risotto, and great avgolemono!

                                      Orzo is also a good choice, and is used in Greece. Actually, you can use just about any small pasta such as orzo, acini di pepe, or even Israeli (large) couscous.

                                      Whether I would use the River brand rice or orzo would depend on how I plan on serving the avgolemono, but in most cases I'd go with the rice. Probably. Unless I really wanted the orzo.... '-)