If there is one ingredient you should keep on hand, it is the chicken egg.
This one ingredient has the capability to nourish, thicken, leaven and bind. Its nutritional value is great. The yolk alone is full of umami when cooked. A lone chicken egg can transform a meal or be a meal by itself.
Varieties of “egg” soup can be seen throughout world. The Chinese-take-out-style Egg Drop Soup is one of the most common forms eaten stateside, but with the resourcefulness of an egg, it’s not surprising that other parts of the world utilize this nourishing and inexpensive ingredient in soup form.
This classic Italian soup is a combination of whisked eggs, Parmesan cheese and spinach that is swirled into boiling chicken stock. The soup is full of cooked egg whites that resemble strips of cloth. In typical Italian fashion, the name stracciatella was given to this soup to represent the cooked eggs likeness to “rags.” It is a rustic and filling meal. The soup also inspired the stracciatella variety of gelato.
This Colombian milk-and-egg soup is a beloved breakfast meal. Milk and water are warmed through, then whole eggs are gently placed into the hot liquid to poach. While the eggs poach, fresh cilantro and scallions are added to the bottom of serving bowls. Top the herbs with poached eggs and then the hot liquid. This meal is best served with crusty bread and fresh cracked pepper to taste.
This is a quintessential Greek soup, where chicken broth, lemon juice, eggs and rice are combined to create a hearty and flavorful meal. This soup should not produce “rags” (like in egg drop soup or stracciatella) but a saucelike smoothness and stewlike thickness. Some recipes call for the entire egg, while others, just the egg yolk.
Dovga, S’Pas or Yayla Corbasi (Yogurt Soup)
While it’s not truly an egg soup, this traditional Caucasus and Middle Eastern soup utilizes eggs. Variations of yogurt soup are found throughout the Middle East. Typically it is some combination of water, rice, yogurt, eggs and herbs. Served warm or cold, this soup uses the egg to enrich and thicken the soup.
This provincial and (possibly) obscure French version of an egg drop soup is made with onions sautéed in olive oil and then combined with water, whisked eggs and salt. This minimalist soup is then poured over a slice of toasted French bread and topped with herbs.
Sopa de Ajo
The famed Castilian garlic soup is another example of beloved peasant food, which includes poached eggs. Garlic and day-old bread are toasted in a pan with olive oil and pimento. Chicken stock is added to the mixture and then brought to a simmer. The soup is finished by adding whole eggs to the simmering liquid to poach. While this soup diverges from the raglike soups of Asia and Italy, the egg is still a key component of the dish.
Potato and Egg
Possibly Irish in origin, there are a handful of Potato and Egg Soup recipes that incorporate eggs into the final cooking stages of potato soup. Whether it is to emulsify, poach or to create “rags,” a quick internet search of Potato and Egg Soup will yield a handful of results.
This is an Asian-inspired soup where chicken broth, soy sauce and sesame oil are boiled together to make a flavorful broth. A cornstarch slurry thickens the soup, and whisked eggs are added at the end of the cooking process. There are several ways to add the freshly whisked egg to the warm broth — from evenly drizzling on top from stirring until incorporated.
With these various methods of incorporating eggs into soup, I repeatedly find myself making one the most: Egg Drop Soup. There’s no chopping or sautéing, only simmering and whisking. And if you’re like me and keep homemade chicken stock in the freezer and pasture-raised eggs at the ready, whipping up a delicious Egg Drop Soup is always a possibility.
Utilizing eggs in soup is a worldwide approach to simple, resourceful cooking.
Rebecca White of Plano blogs at apleasantlittlekitchen.com.
Egg Drop Soup
Author note: The egg to stock ratio is 2 eggs for every 4 cups. Get creative with the flavoring added to the stock: Sometimes I add fresh ginger or miso. The soup will need to be salted if using the Instant Pot Homemade Chicken Stock listed below. I add about 1 teaspoon of salt to the finished soup.
4 cups homemade chicken stock (recipe follows)
1/4 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Green onions, sliced
Bring the chicken stock, sesame oil and soy sauce to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
Remove 2 to 3 tablespoons of hot stock and combine it with the cornstarch in a separate small bowl. Whisk until smooth. Slowly whisk the cornstarch slurry into the simmering liquid.
In another bowl, whisk the eggs. Drizzle the eggs evenly on top of the liquid and give it one or two gentle stirs. Place the spoon down and walk away.
Ladle into bowls and top with green onions. Salt to taste.
Instant Pot Chicken Stock: Place 3 pounds of bone-in chicken, 1 onion (peeled and halved) and 8 cups of water into the Instant Pot insert. Seal and cook over high pressure for 45 minutes. Release pressure naturally until all pressure is gone, about 1 hour. Remove the chicken and set aside for another use. Strain the hot liquid into a large bowl and let cool. Cover and place in the fridge until ready to use. The stock can stay in the fridge for 3 days or up to 4 months in the freezer.
Makes 4 servings.
3 quarts chicken stock, preferably homemade
3 cups cooked chicken
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
Salt and white pepper
2/3 cup Greek brown rice, white medium-grain rice or orzo
1 cup Greek white or sparkling wine
Fresh, strained juice of 1 1/2 lemons
5 eggs, separated
Salt and pepper, to taste
Bring broth to a boil and add the rice or orzo and saffron threads. Simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the rice or orzo is tender.
Break up the chicken and shred the meat. Add to the soup. Add the sparkling or white wine and continue cooking another 6 to 7 minutes. Add the lemon juice to the soup and stir.
Make the avgolemono: Place the egg whites in a metal bowl if using a hand-held whisk or in the bowl of a stand mixer outfitted with a whisk attachment. Whip at medium speed and then at a slightly higher speed, until a stiff meringue forms. In a separate, metal bowl, with a clean whisk, whisk the yolks until creamy. Fold the meringue into the yolks thoroughly. Take a ladleful of the soup broth, careful not to catch any rice, and add it to the egg mixture in a very slow but steady stream, whisking vigorously all the while. Repeat with a second ladleful. Pour this mixture into the pot, tilt so that it is evenly distributed, taste for salt and pepper or additional lemon juice, and serve.
SOURCE: Diane Kochilas’s The Country Cooking of Greece (Chronicle 2012)
4 cups milk
2 cups water
3 scallions, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for serving
Bread with butter to serve
Place the milk and water in a medium pot and bring to a boil. Add the scallions, salt and pepper and cook for 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and add the eggs without breaking them.
Let the eggs cook for 3 minutes, then add the cilantro.
Serve warm with bread on the side and garnish with fresh cilantro.
Makes 4 servings.
Receta de Sopa de Ajo (Garlic Soup with Sherry)
6 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade (if commercial, season with pepper, onions, bay leaf and thyme)
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 cloves garlic, peeled
6 cups cubed French bread
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika, or to taste
3 tablespoons dry (fino) sherry
Salt to taste
1/4 cup minced parsley
Heat the chicken stock in a pot.
In a skillet, heat the oil and sauté the garlic cloves on low heat, stirring until they are golden. Sauté the bread in the remaining oil until the cubes are browned and crusty.
Lightly crush the garlic cloves with a fork, then add to the broth. Add bread, paprika, sherry and salt to taste.
Heat the broth to a boil, then reduce to medium.
Crack each egg into a small bowl. Carefully pour each egg so it rests in the soup, careful not to break the yolk. Cover the pot and poach the eggs until the whites are firm, but yolks are not hard, about 2 minutes. Serve in bowls with an egg in each and garnish with parsley.
Makes 4 servings.
SOURCE: La Tienda