A v g o l e m o n o , the famous greek lemon and egg sauce, may be difficult to pronounce but it is even trickier to make.
It is a unique sauce that appears -to my knowledge- only in the greek cuisine. You have probably tasted it as the creamy off-white lemony sauce over dolmades or stuffed zucchini in good greek tavernas or restaurants.
Its velvety texture (it is not supposed to be thick as a beschamel, far from it!) and incredible taste is a combination of the freshest of eggs and lemons that blend wonderfully with the strained cooking juices of the vegetable, meat , chicken or fish that has been cooking slowly for a while, releasing the stock which the avgolemono will happily marry and elevate the protagonist of the pot to a heavenly level of greek umami taste. And , yes the avgolemono sauce pairs perfectly with so many greek slow cooked stews and soups, anything really from cabbage dolmades to a hearty fisherman’s soup!
But what is avgolemono? Besides it being the result of the avgo (egg) + lemoni (lemon) combination (as the two basic words combined indicate in Greek) it is the blend of a whole egg (or more) with the strained juice of a lemon , both mixed thoroughly together and afterwards added slowly to some of the cooking juices of the soup or stew. Its utmost purpose is to blanket all the pot’s ingredients together under this creamy veil, its success resulting primarily from the careful handling of the temperature that guarantees its perfect consistency. Creamy, thick, velvety, in other words? Tricky!
It is not an easy technique and modern cooks often blame their … mothers for never having based their perfect avgolemono on a comprehensible recipe but using their , hm , cooking self-confidence and their good instinct of when enough is enough (shaking of the pot and removing it from the heat, that is!). So, I guess , you have to trust your intuition and instinct too , at least for the first times you make the avgolemono although I tried here to help as much as I can with a trusted family recipe .
Another thing that makes avgolemono challenging is to cleverly estimate how much of the avgolemono sauce you will need all and all in order to , first, blanket lightly all of the cooked food but also leave at the same time some extra sauce for the dish’s final garnish. Why so? Avgolemono is a tasty thing, a lemony sauce that pairs nicely with thick slices of a rustic bread and so it needs to be enough for two three hefty bread dunks! If you make avgolemono, make it the greek way, velvety , light and make a lot!
And make sure you pass by the baker the morning before you make it for the freshest rustic loaf of bread available! It is worth the dish’s value…
Two minutes Angie
Easy Avgolemono Sauce explained
For four cups of avgolemono you will need :
- the juice of a lemon , strained
- two whole eggs beaten very, very well (at room temperature)
- four cups of the stew’s cooking juices, or chicken/meat/fish/vegetable broth, the two of them strained and used for the avgolemono and the other half simmering in the pot.
- freshly ground pepper
(you may not need salt in this sauce because you are using the food’s sauce that already has been salted during cooking).
Lower the temperature of the soup or stew that is cooking to a minimum boil (or if you have cooked the soup or stew the day before or earlier bring it to a simmer).
Blend thoroughly in a blender the lemon and eggs beating for at least 2-3 minutes until the egg is liquid and super-well combined with the lemon.
With motor running now at low speed , start adding half of the cooking broth (which is in luke warm temperature) in a slow stream until well incorporated with the egg mix. If your soup contains small pasta or rice then you have to strain the broth first so that you pour only liquid into the egg mix.
Now, with confidence and quick movements, add the egg mix into the pot (covering all areas) and immediately lift the pot with your two hands from the handles and start moving it in circular motion to allow the avgolemono to blanket the whole food and incorporate well with the rest of the cooking juices away from the heat first.
Place the pot on the stove again (remember, low heat) and allow it to thicken gradually , lifting and lowering the pot every two minutes so that the egg does not curdle -curdling is the biggest danger in this sauce. Your low temperatures and continuous movement will stop the egg mix from curdling .
You are now left with a velvety and creamy avgolemono that takes your stew to another level! You have to serve it immediately, avgolemono sauce does not reheat well on the stove but if you do , do so in minimum heat.
Freshly ground pepper is strongly recommended as a finishing touch along with fresh bread.