pork-stuffed cucumber soup
I’ve got a weird one for you today. Something you may have never even heard of before.
Or maybe you’ve had stuffed cucumber soup a million times already and you’re all like “C’mon, dude where have you been?” in which case my question is HOW HAVE YOU NOT TOLD ME ABOUT THIS YET?? Friends tell their friends about secretly amazing food! It's a friend-duty-scouts-honor thing. You know what though, it's all good because we're both here now. Plus I had this soup for lunch and the magnificence it has imparted on my life has me zen’d TF out.
If by chance you didn’t know about it before, then you should get ready to have your mind blown because this soup totally schools in the category of subtle brilliance, and accomplishes the near impossible feat of excelling as both a comfort food and a light meal. It's such a pleasure to behold, a neat little package of new exciting textural elements all wrapped up in your old familiar favorite flavors. Not to mention the umami factor is off the charts. It will warm your soul and fill your belly without even daring to mess with your waistline. All other soups should take note.
As if I needed another reason to love it, the prep on this one is a complete no-brainer. The only part that even feels the least bit like work is hollowing out the cucumbers. I actually used a long-hanlded tea spoon, which I acquired (or uh, stole) from my mom’s old set of flatware that she bought in England in the early ‘80s (thanks mama!), and it was perfect for this purpose. However, a regular measuring spoon, teaspoon size or smaller will work just fine. Aside from that, it’s just chopping garlic, mixing it with the meat, and stuffing the cucumbers.
Cos’s weekly contribution to our meal plan usually comes in the form of slow-roasted salmon with a sautéed green, but his enthusiasm for this dish on top of the truly low-key prep work it entails might just land it in his supper repertoire. (Hi Cos! dontcha think??) You might feel like the meat is going to come out of the cucumbers as they bob around in the boiling broth, but everything stays intact and turns out beautifully. (As *beautifully* as meat-filled cucumbers can turn out, that is.) When cooked, the cucumbers go perfectly tender, but aren’t mushy in the least, while the meaty core takes on the texture of a baked meatball. I ate mine with a fork, slicing off a bite at a time before savoring the succulent nubby end (i.e., the best part), and then tipped the bowl up to slurp down the silky mushrooms and what was left of the meaty broth.
It’s called “Pepper’s Pork-Stuffed Cucumber Soup” because it is the handiwork of Chrissy Teigen’s Thai mom, Pepper, who lives with her and cooks for her and the family (i.e., John Legend + the cutest baby on the planet). On that note can I just say that I normally feel like my life is pretty awesome and wouldn’t trade it for anything, but given the opportunity I would strongly consider trading lives with Chrissy Teigen. Especially in light of the whole live-in-cook Thai mom thing. That sounds incredibly tight.
Anyhoo, this recipe is from Chrissy's cookbook Cravings, which came out earlier this year. I ordered it on a whim, and oh my my, I am so glad I did. This is already the second recipe I have made in just over five days of owning it, and I have been ogling over every single last one of them since I first cracked it open. I’ll actually be posting another one fairly soon, which perhaps isn’t the most original thing but sue me! The photos are stunning and it reads like a hilarious, un-filtered twitter feed - a hilarious un-filtered twitter feed that takes food very seriously - so like uh...Chrissy Teigen’s twitter feed? D’oh! Look, between all the drooling I’ve been doing over this cookbook and the new Frank Ocean album, I’m pretty much at full mental capacity. What can I say, it’s been a great week so far. Hope yours has been too. Cheers!
A couple of things:
Add 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes, or maybe even a dash of chili garlic sauce, to the pork mixture. If you like spice, and I do, you might find that you could do with a tiny bit more kick from the pork.
Use homemade broth if I have time, or at least the fancier store-bought stuff if I don't. The broth is so key here, as it is in every "clear" soup. With such a simple and short ingredient list, this is an ideal time to use the best of what you can get your hands on and let each ingredient shine. That said, we gave it glowing reviews with the stock I made from Better than Bouillon.
The original recipe calls for 1 bunch of honshimeji mushrooms. I didn't see any at Whole Foods, and I was buying groceries outside the city on the way home from a weekend away, so I wasn't up for making a special trip to an Asian market. I used a "mushroom medley" combo pack that had mostly small but also a few large mushrooms. I chopped the larger ones up so that all of the mushrooms were roughly the same size. If all you had access to were white or brown buttom mushrooms, I would just ditch the stems (for a later use, even) and chop the caps finely. Make it work!
Pork Stuffed Cucumber Soup, via Chrissy Teigen's Cravings
Serves 4 as a main, 8 as a starter
1 lb ground pork
1/4 cup soy sauce
10 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, freshly ground if you have it
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional, see note)
5 large cucumbers, peeled, ends NOT trimmed
3 chicken boullion cubes, or about 10 cups of chicken stock (see note)
8 to 10 ounces of small or finely chopped mushrooms (see note)
4 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
In a medium bowl mix together the pork, soy sauce, garlic and pepper(s).
Halve the cucumbers crosswise. Using a metal measuring spoon (teaspoon or smaller) or a small melon baller, remove the seeds and watery middle of the cucumber so that each piece is a hollow cylinder with a solid end. Pack each tube with the pork mixture, spooning it in a little at a time and then poking it down to remove any air pockets before adding more until it’s packed full. Fry a little sausage patty with the pork mixture that's left over and set it aside to munch on while the soup is cooking. :)
In a large Dutch oven or wide soup pot combine 12 cups of water and the bouillon cubes and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the stuffed cucumbers to the pot and reduce the heat to a low simmer. Let the cucumbers cooks for 30 mins, then add the mushrooms and cook for about 15 minutes longer.
Spoon the cucumbers into a bowl, then a few mushrooms and a little more broth, and serve with scallions sprinkled on top.