Egg-Lemon Soup with Chicken and Corn (and Edamame)

I hate to sound like an alarmist, but the end is drawing near. 

As the farmers’ markets around Boston fill up with apples and hard squash, the end of local tomatoes and corn can’t be far behind. Supplies are already starting to dwindle.  So begins the annual ritual of using the season’s last corn at a breakneck pace. In this vain, I submit that corn soups kill two birds with one stone. Not only do you get the satisfaction of using the corn, but you get bowls of hot soup for dinner on the newly chilly September nights.

With its velvety consistency and subtle undercurrent of lemon, egg-lemon soup – avgolemono -- is a long-standing fave of mine. It’s also the basis of a running joke between the Cook’s Illustrated brass and me. When I was still fairly new there I suggested running an avgolemono article, but the editor, Chris, was dead-set against it. When he was away one summer, another feature in the lineup fell through in the eleventh hour, so I seized the moment and developed a recipe and article. The recipe was great -- I’ve made it regularly ever since, and it serves as the foundation for this soup. But Chris had the last laugh, for my moment of minor glory turned out to be one of the lowest-rated articles the magazine had ever run. C’est la vie.  Although few Cook’s readers shared my avgolemono mania, I’m as devoted as ever.

Because the flavors in this soup are streamlined, homemade broth can really shine here. If you have some in the freezer, this is a great place to use it. The corn is a nice addition to avgolemono because its sweetness really sets off the soup’s lemony tang. At the risk of causing culture clash in a bowl, I like the edamame for both the color and texture they bring to the soup. If you are a purist, though, you may want to forego them.

If you have leftovers to reheat, use super-low heat so you don’t curdle the egg.

Makes about 3 quarts

Ingredients

  • 6 medium ears corn, husks and silks removed
  • 2 quarts homemade or packaged low-sodium chicken broth
  • Zest (removed with a vegetable peeler in large strips) and ¼ cup juice from 1 ½ medium lemons, plus lemon slices for garnish
  • 2 large bay leaves
  • Pinch of ground cardamom, or 2 whole cloves
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 1 pound total), cut into ½-inch cubes
  • ½ cup long grain white rice
  • 2 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 2 large eggs, preferably at room temperature
  • 2 large egg yolks, preferably at room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups frozen edamame, thawed, optional

Directions

  1. Break the ears of corn in half. Working with half an ear at a time, on a cutting board stand it on the broken end to stabilize the cob. Using a chef’s knife, cut the kernels off the cob a few rows at a time. Rotate the ear and repeat until you have cut off all the kernels (you should have about 6 cups); reserve the cobs and set aside, and place the kernels in a medium bowl and set aside.
  2. In a large saucepan over high heat, bring the stock, stripped corn cobs, lemon zest, bay leaves, and cardamom or cloves to a boil; remove the pan from the heat, cover it, and set aside to steep for 30 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove and discard the cobs, zest strips, bay leaves, and cloves if you used them.
  3. Return the pot to medium-high heat and bring to a strong simmer. Add the chicken, rice, and corn kernels, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer until the rice is cooked through and tender, about 18 minutes.
  4. In a medium nonreactive bowl, whisk the eggs, yolks, and lemon juice to blend. Whisking constantly, slowly ladle about 2 cups of the hot broth into the egg mixture. Continue to whisk until the egg and broth mixture is uniform, then pour it into the pot with the rest of the broth. Add the edamame, if using, and cook (do not allow soup to simmer or boil), stirring constantly, until the soup thickens slightly and wisps of steam appear, about 5 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning with additional salt, if necessary, and serve at once, garnished with lemon slices.