In Greek cooking, lemon and whipped eggs are a classic — and essential — combination. It’s called avgolemono, a creamy but tart combination used to thicken sauces and soups, and that gives so many Greek dishes their characteristic tangy richness.
The eggs are beaten until frothy while the lemon juice is drizzled in. Then warm liquid from a broth or sauce is added slowly to the mixture to temper the eggs and prevent them from curdling. Finally, the tempered mixture is slowly incorporated into the dish.
A particularly delicious example is a dish called youvarlakia avgolemono, in which beef and rice meatballs dot a lemony soup that’s rich and velvety with egg yolks.
But the avgolemono was a bit fussy for our weeknight standards, so we streamlined it for this recipe in our book “Tuesday Nights Mediterranean,” which features weeknight-friendly meals from the region.
To simplify, we pair the meatballs with a quick pan sauce inspired by Greek ladolemono, a whisked sauce of lemon, olive oil and oregano. Putting the egg instead into the ground beef mixture adds richness while also acting as a binder, along with cooked rice that we mash with a fork. A generous amount of chopped dill lends the dish fresh herbal notes.
Don’t use uncooked rice. If the rice is raw, the grains won’t cook through in time. Thawed frozen, store-bought shelf-stable, or home-cooked leftover long-grain rice all do nicely. Just make sure it’s at room temperature so the grains are easy to mash with a fork. Serve with warmed pita bread or a rice or orzo pilaf.
Start to finish: 40 minutes
1 cup cooked long-grain white rice, room temperature
2 slices hearty white sandwich bread, torn into small pieces
1 cup low-sodium beef broth, divided
4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill, divided
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 pound 85 percent lean ground beef
1 large egg yolk
3 medium garlic cloves, finely grated
2 teaspoons dried oregano, divided
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons lemon juice
In a large bowl, mash the rice with a fork until smooth and pasty. Add the bread, ¼ cup of broth, 2 tablespoons of dill, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Using your hands, mix and mash the ingredients to a paste. Add the beef, egg yolk, half of the garlic and 1 teaspoon of oregano, then mix with your hands until the mixture is homogeneous. Divide into 12 portions, form into smooth balls and place on a plate. Refrigerate, uncovered, for about 10 minutes.
In a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high, heat 2 tablespoons of oil until shimmering. Add the meatballs and cook without disturbing until lightly browned on the bottoms, about 3 minutes. Carefully turn the meatballs and cook until browned on the second sides, about another 3 minutes. Add the remaining garlic and the remaining 1 teaspoon oregano and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the remaining ¾ cup broth, then scrape up any browned bits. Bring to a simmer, then cover, reduce to medium-low and cook, gently stirring once or twice, until the centers reach 160°F, 5 to 7 minutes.
Using tongs, transfer the meatballs to a serving dish and tent with foil. Bring the liquid in the pan to a boil over medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until thick enough that a spatula drawn through it leaves a trail, 2 to 3 minutes. Off heat, whisk in the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil and the lemon juice. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Pour the sauce over the meatballs and sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons dill.
EDITOR’S NOTE: For more recipes, go to Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street at 177milkstreet.com/ap
Christopher Kimball, The Associated Press