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As suave as chicken and rice soup can get.

4 to 6 portions


About 2¾ hours, over the course of 2 days


What happens when chicken and rice in broth is brought to an alluring velvetiness with a liaison of beaten egg and lemon juice? It goes from simple soup to elegant party animal. Curiously, avgolemono, which we think of as Greek, evolved in the Sephardic cultures throughout the eastern and western Mediterranean rim—where it was called agristada—as a hot or cold sauce or soup made with fish or chicken broth and enriched with eggs. It predates the Mother sauces! Ultimately, the simplicity of this dish masks a number of conundrums in provenance and flavor: Chicken or egg? Soup or sauce? Medicine or food? Greek or fill-in-the-blank? But it is so brilliant and satisfying, we aren’t terribly concerned about the vagaries that attend its history.

We, of course, exalt avgolemono not merely as soup or sauce but as a first-class rice dish, and take some pride in the fact that Sephardim brought the dish to Savannah when that city was the budding colonial center of Carolina rice export. Carolina Gold, which we use in this recipe, possesses not only a beautiful clean mouthfeel and flavor, but the outstanding starch qualities—thought to stabilize the egg liaison—associated with medium-grain rice.

The magic of silk, satin, and sunlight in this recipe, which Dawn developed for us, resides in the soup’s delicate depth of flavor and its ingredient ratio. Frankly, past interactions with avgolemono left us undersold. It can be thin of flavor, tinny or metallic, and generally without character. But here, we poach the chicken with a set of advanced aromatics that infuse both the stock and meat, use whole eggs rather than only yolks, and just the right amount lemon to deliver superb texture, balance, and flavor.

Cooking Remarks

Start with a gorgeous fresh local farm-raised chicken. (Here, we have Jefferson.) Don’t bother making this recipe with boxed chicken broth, dry shredded breast meat, or eggs that are wan and lifeless. Part of the visual appeal of this soup comes from richly hued egg yolks that come from happy, pastured hens.  

equipment mise en place

For this recipe, you will need a heavy-bottomed 6-quart Dutch oven; a pair of tongs; a footed colander; a large bowl, a couple of medium bowls, and a couple of small bowls; a large and a small fine-mesh strainer; a sharp vegetable peeler; kitchen twine; a digital kitchen scale; a heavy-bottomed large saucepan; a wooden spoon; a whisk; a ladle; and warmed serving bowls.

    • 2
      medium yellow onions, peeled and chopped
    • 2
      medium celery ribs, chopped
    • 1
      carrot, peeled and chopped
    • 10
      large garlic cloves, peeled and halved
    • 6
      fresh thyme sprigs or 2 teaspoons dried thyme
    • A handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs
    • 1
      Turkish bay leaf
    • 20
      black peppercorns
    • 1
      (4-pound) whole chicken
    • 2
      quarts spring or filtered water
    • 1
      large, juicy lemon, preferably organic, scrubbed
    • ½
    • Fine sea salt
    • 3
      large eggs, room temperature
    • Freshly ground black pepper
    • Chopped fresh dill, for garnish

    In a heavy-bottomed 6-quart Dutch oven, combine the vegetables, garlic, thyme, parsley, bay, and peppercorns. Place the chicken breast side-up in the pot, pour in the water, and bring it to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover partially, and simmer for 35 minutes. Using a pair of tongs, turn the chicken breast side down, cover the pot partially, and continue to simmer until the drumstick moves about loosely in the joint, 20 to 30 minutes more. Turn off the heat and use the tongs to transfer the chicken to a footed colander set in a large bowl. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bird and shred it into small bite-size pieces with your fingers, leaving a fair bit of meat on the bones so that the broth will be flavorful. Turn the shredded meat into a small bowl, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use. Return the bones, skin, and any liquid in the bowl to the pot and bring the broth to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer until it is rich and flavorful and measures 5 cups, about 45 minutes. Strain the broth through a large fine-mesh sieve into the bowl; discard the solids in the sieve. Let the broth cool to room temperature, and then cover and refrigerate overnight.


    Using a sharp vegetable peeler, remove the zest from the lemon in strips, taking as little of the white pith as possible. Stack the zest strips and tie them securely into a bundle with kitchen twine. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice into a small fine-mesh strainer set over a small bowl; you should have about ¼ cup. Set the zest bundle and the juice aside. Weigh out 8 ounces of shredded chicken (reserve the remainder for another use).


    Skim off and discard most of the congealed fat from the surface of the broth; leave just a little fat for flavor. Transfer the broth to a heavy-bottomed large saucepan, cover, and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add the lemon zest bundle, the rice, and 1 teaspoon salt and stir to combine. Turn down the heat to low, cover, and simmer, stirring once or twice with a wooden spoon, until the rice is just shy of tender, about 16 minutes.


    In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and 3½ tablespoons of the lemon juice until well combined. Set a fine-mesh strainer over second medium bowl, pour in the egg mixture, and stir to encourage the mixture to fall through the mesh; discard the egg bits remaining in the strainer. Set the bowl near the saucepan and, while whisking continuously, very gradually ladle in about 2 cups of the hot broth, skimming from the top (so as not to take any grains of rice). Now, while continuously stirring the broth mixture with the wooden spoon, gradually pour the bowl’s contents into the saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the soup is thick enough to lightly coat the wooden spoon, about 5 minutes; do not let the soup reach a simmer. Remove and discard the lemon zest bundle, add the shredded chicken, and turn down the heat to low. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, just until the chicken is warmed through, about 3 minutes. Turn off the heat, taste, and adjust the seasoning with salt. Ladle the soup into warmed bowls, sprinkle with dill, grind some black pepper over the top, and serve.