So I have these funny little tomatillos growing in my garden. I never planted them. They just appeared. Lots of gardeners in my neighborhood get them, so I think they are wild, or at least feral. There do happen to be a number of various “ground cherry” species growing all over the country, so I am not certain which one this is. All I can tell you is that this is a welcome weed.
Well, they’re all ready to go now, so I decided to make what I think is the very best thing to do with tomatillos: Chile verde, only with wild boar instead of pork. This is some of the last meat from Matilda the Wild Pig, and I wanted to make it count. If you aren’t familiar with them, tomatillos are a little like green tomatoes (they’re cousins, actually) covered in a paper-like husk.
You strip off the husk, and inside is a kinda sticky green tomato-like thing. When they get perfect, the fruit fills the husk and sticks to it, so you may need to husk them under cold water. You want tomatillos when they are green and unripe; they turn purple when they are dead ripe. I know of no recipe that calls for fully ripe tomatillos. Do you? Seems weird.
Chile verde, or green chili, is a staple in Mexican restaurants around here. It appears to be a dish from the Sonoran Desert area of Mexico, and there are versions of it all over that country, some using tomatillos, some not. The version we in America are most familiar with seems to have originated on our side of the border in New Mexico.Wherever it comes from, this is a damn good chili, up there with my chile colorado and venison chili.
Making the sauce is kind of a production, like most good Mexican sauces. (Ever make mole? Not easy.) You put the tomatillos and garlic under a broiler to char, then add roasted green chiles — both hot and mild — cilantro, etc. and puree everything in a blender. Once you have that done, its easy: Brown meat and simmer until tender.
Keep in mind that tomatillos are acidic. For geeks, their average pH is 3.8, which is only a little milder than an orange. This means your chili will be acidic, too. So I serve it with white rice, Mexican cotija cheese and a dollop of sour cream — and yes, I know sour cream is also acidic, but in comparison to the chile verde, it feels soothing. You can also serve this on tortillas, and a chile verde burrito is damn good.
Chile Verde with Wild Boar
Chile verde or green chili is slightly lighter, zippier version of regular chili. Unlike regular chili, however, it is almost always made with pork, or in my case wild boar. Either will work here. You will absolutely need tomatillos here, as there is no substitute. You will also need some hot and mild green peppers, too. I prefer fire-roasted jalapenos and either pasilla or poblano peppers, but you can also use Anaheim or, as a last resort, green bell peppers.
Most chile verde recipes do not have tequila in them, but I wanted to use it as something to deglaze the pot with. You get a lot of yummy stuff on the bottom of the pan by the time you’ve browned the wild boar and sliced onion. Tequila is a nice touch, but if you can’t drink alcohol use water instead. My friend Elise’s chile verde does not use tequila.
Once you make this, it will keep for a week in the fridge.
Serves 4 to 6.
Prep Time: 45 minutes, not including brine time
Cook Time: 3 hours
- 1/4 cup kosher salt
- 3 to 4 pounds wild boar or pork
- 1 1/2 pounds tomatillos
- 1 head garlic, separated into cloves but not peeled
- 2 to 4 jalapenos, seeded and chopped
- 4 Pasilla, poblano, Anaheim or green bell peppers
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro, loosely packed
- 3 tablespoons lard or vegetable oil
- 2 large onions, sliced root to stem (about 3 cups)
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1/2 cup tequila
- 1 cup pork or chicken stock
- Cilantro and sour cream for garnish
- Mix the salt with 1 quart of water and stir until the salt dissolves. Put the wild boar into a lidded container and pour the brine over it. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Overnight is better. When you are ready to cook, discard the brine, pat the meat dry and cut into 2-inch chunks.
- To prep the sauce, slice the tomatillos in half and arrange, cut side down, on a foil-lined baking sheet. Put the garlic cloves on the sheet, too and set under the broiler. Remove when they are a little charred, but not burned to a crisp, about 8 to 10 minutes.
- While the tomatillos are broiling, set the jalapenos and the pasilla or Anaheim chiles directly on your gas burner. If you have an electric stove, add them to the broiler as well. Blacken the skins of the peppers, turning them as needed. Once the skins are black, put the chiles in a paper bag. Close the bag to let the peppers steam themselves for 20 minutes. When they’ve steamed, take them out of the bag and remove the skins. Do this in the sink to minimize the mess. Remove all the seeds and the stems of the peppers, too. (Note: If you’ve ever been burned working with chiles, you might want to wear gloves for this. Working with the roasted jalapenos might irritate your skin.)
- Put the tomatillos and the roasted chiles into a blender. Peel the garlic and put the garlic into the blender, too. Add the 1/2 cup of cilantro and a pinch of salt. Puree until everything is combined, but there are still some little chunks; you want some texture to the sauce.
- Heat the lard or vegetable oil in a Dutch oven or other large, heavy pot over medium-high heat. Brown the wild boar chunks in batches, making sure to not crowd them in the pot. Take your time and brown at least 2 sides of every chunk. Set the boar into a bowl when its browned.
- When the meat’s ready, add the sliced onions and cook them, stirring occasionally, until they’re nicely browned on the edges, about 10 to 15 minutes. Sprinkle over the oregano and cumin and stir in the garlic and cook another 90 seconds.
- Add the tequila and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Return the boar to the pot and add the sauce from the blender and the cup of pork or chicken stock. Stir well, bring to a gentle simmer and cover. Cook gently for 1 hour. Uncover the pot and continue simmering gently until the meat is tender, about 1 to 2 more hours.
- Serve over white rice with more cilantro and some sour cream.