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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Avgolemono with Meatballs





Traditionally Greeks eat an ‘Easter’ soup called Mayeritsa made of lamb intestines and heart which is as much about practicality as it is symbolic meaning for the holiday.  At some point my future may include roasting a whole lamb and using the intestines for traditional soup, but for now, my culinary experience has yet to mature to tripe, so I’ve adopted this recipe, modified from Greek Cuisine by Vefa Alexiadou.  

Ground lamb can be rather expensive, especially in the spring, so when I prepare this for a large party (and I always do) I substitute half of the ground lamb for a ninety-percent ground beef.  I typically make this soup for 30+ guests, and all of it can be made ahead and assembled with ease at the last minute.  The chicken stock can be made weeks in advance, defatted and frozen.  In fact, I even cheat and use store-roasted chickens, deboning and saving the meat for another recipe and then cooking the vegetables and bones to make the stock for this soup. 

The meatballs can be made at any time and frozen.  They can even go straight into the soup frozen but will require additional cooking time.  My preferred method for cooking the meatballs is to cook them the day before, remove them from the broth, and then cool and defat (skim the fat from the top of) the liquid a second time for a cleaner flavor.  To serve, bring the broth to a simmer and add the meatballs, let them come up to heat and then finish with the lemon-egg mixture.  

This soup is incredibly satisfying with its delicious chicken stock base, the bite of the lamb and rice meatballs, the creaminess of the egg laden broth, and that unexpected bright lemon accent.  The flavor profile is unique and addictive; few can pass up the opportunity for a second (or even third) helping. 


Note:  The addition of the egg essentially turns this soup base into an emulsified sauce similar to a hollandaise.  Leftovers should be reheated slowly over medium-low heat in a double boiler to avoid curdling.


4-6 Servings
Ingredients List
30+ Servings

Stock
1
roasted and deboned chicken, skin and fat discarded, leaving wings and other joints with plenty of meat available to flavor the broth.
2
6-8 cups
cold water (enough to cover the ingredients in the pan)
12-16 cups
1
onion, quartered
2
2-3
medium carrots, rough cut
5-6
2-3
celery ribs, rough cut
3-5
½ bunch
flat-leaf parsley, stems and all
1 large bunch

Combine all ingredients in a large stock pot and slowly bring to a simmer.  Remove impurities from the stock as it simmers by skimming the top to remove the scum that accumulates during cooking.  Simmer on low for approximately 6 hours; regularly skim the top of the pot to remove impurities.  Strain through a fine sieve and discard solids.  Place container in ice bath to bring the temperature down quickly and place in refrigerator to continue to chill.  Once cold, remove all fat that has floated to the top of the container.  Stock can be frozen at this point.

Meatballs
1 lb
ground lamb, beef and/or veal or any combination
6 lb
¼ cup
 converted white rice
1 ½ cups
3 Tablespoons
parsley, finely chopped
1 large bunch ( ¾ to 1 cup)
2 Tablespoons
dill, finally chopped
1 large bunch ( ½ to ¾ cup)
2 Tablespoons
olive oil
½ cup
1 teaspoon
salt
2 Tablespoons
½ teaspoon
Black pepper
1 Tablespoon

Flour to dredge


In a large mixing bowl combine all meatball ingredients except flour and knead the mixture a few minutes to thoroughly combine.  Using a small ice cream scoop, measure out equally portioned meatballs, roll them in hand, and dredge each in flour.  Arrange them neatly in rows on a cookie sheet to make counting them easier (if the need for dividing into equal portions is needed.)

To cook meatballs bring the stock to a simmer and drop meatballs in a few at a time.  Simmer on low for 20 minutes.  Remove them from the stock if not serving immediately, allow stock to cool and defat a second time if holding to serve later.  Finish the soup with the avgolemono.

Avgolemono
2
eggs
10-12
¼ cup
lemon juice
1 cup

Soup should be hot and meatballs (added back to stock if removed) cooked through.  Test soup base for salt and add if needed.  Beat the eggs lightly and add lemon juice a little at a time, beating continuously.   Remove soup from heat.  Carefully ladle the hot stock into the egg/lemon mixture whisking vigorously to temper the eggs before adding them to the pot.  Repeat the process for larger batches until the egg mixture is heated through, then add to the pot and stir to combine.  Serve immediately. 






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