Charred Leek & Tomatillo Chili

eat your greens

Part two of my New Orleans trip: the swamp! Kramer and his friends went on a swamp tour when they were visiting a few weeks earlier, so I booked a trip for us on the same tour. It was super fun and not nearly as creepy as I thought it would be. We floated through the water, going fast at times and at other times barely moving as we passed homes or hunting cottages. Some of the houses were beautiful and looked like something you’d see on a decorating websites, other had fallen into disrepair and seemed as if they were minutes away from falling into the river altogether. Our guide explained that since it was so difficult to build these places in the swamp to begin with, when someone died or their family didn’t want to keep up with the property, the place would simply be abandoned, left to decay and sink into the water. It was obviously super cool to see and maybe the only “creepy” part of the tour. The best part was, of course, seeing wild pigs! They were so cute, especially when they were munching on the marshmallows and white bread that our guide threw out to them. There were even little wild piglets with funny ears and wobbly legs. It. Was. Awesome. We could have sat there all day, but we had gators to find. We only saw one, unfortunately, peeking its eyes out through a marsh, but that was enough for me, to be honest. The swamp itself was beautiful and green and unlike anything I’d ever seen before. If you’re ever in New Orleans, I highly recommend Honey Island Swamp Tours – it was a blast.

charred leek and tomatillo chiliI couldn’t tell if this house was abandoned or not.

I figured since this was a green chili and I’d be sharing photos of the green swamp, this recipe would be perfect to post today. I love chili and no matter how many times I make it, I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of eating a big bowl. I make it for lunches all the time because it’s generally so easy to make a big pot to eat throughout the week. I had all of these ingredients on hand and had planned to make something completely different with them, but the day got the better of me and I decided to do something easier. I still blackened the leeks and tomatillos, though, because I figured it would add a depth of flavor and make my chili taste like I had spent a lot more time on it than I actually had. So, I charred, peeled, pureed and cooked, and with the help of a little beer, pork, beef and seasoning, I had a deliciously spicy chili on my hands. Top it with cheese, sour cream, scallions or whatever else you prefer – it’s the same green chili you’ve grown to love with what I suppose could be called a farmer’s market twist (I guess I do live in Brooklyn).

charred leek and tomatillo chilicharred leek and tomatillo chiliThe start of our Louisiana swamp tour.

charred leek and tomatillo chilicharred leek and tomatillo chiliJeena was prepared with her GoPro.

charred leek and tomatillo chilicharred leek and tomatillo chilicharred leek and tomatillo chilicharred leek and tomatillo chiliWild pigs!

charred leek and tomatillo chilicharred leek and tomatillo chilicharred leek and tomatillo chiliSo – this chili is fairly easy. The key is to char all of your vegetables before pureeing them and adding them to your meat.

charred leek and tomatillo chiliI find the best way to remove the skins from my peppers is to place them in a bowl while they’re still hot and let the skins just steam right off.

charred leek and tomatillo chiliOnce the skins are removed, puree the peppers along with your blackened chiles and tomatillos.

charred leek and tomatillo chiliThen add the puree to your cooked meat, beer and spices. Allow it to simmer for 30 minutes or so before adding some lime juice and adjusting your seasonings.

charred leek and tomatillo chiliI like to serve my chili with a little sour cream of, of course, some scallions.

charred leek and tomatillo chili

Charred Leek & Tomatillo Chili
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6 servings
Charred leeks and tomatillos come together to make a deliciously spicy green chili.
  • 10 large tomatillos, peeled and cleaned
  • 3 large leeks, cleaned and halved down the middle
  • 3 peppers (any will do - jalapeño, serrano, etc.), cleaned and left whole
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 pounds ground beef or pork
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 beer (something lighter, like a Modelo - definitely don't use an IPA as it will make the chili bitter)
  • juice of 1 lime
  • sour cream, for serving
  • sliced scallions, for serving
  1. First, clean your tomatillos. I find the best way to do this is to bring a small pot of water to a boil, place the peeled tomatillos in the water for 1 minute, then place them in a bath of ice water to stop the cooking process. It's a little bit of work, but it's worth it!
  2. Preheat your oven to 500 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment, and on it, place your cleaned and halved leeks, cleaned whole tomatillos and cleaned whole peppers (I know I cut the heads off of mine but that was a poor decisions, don't do it). Place the tray in the oven and roast until everything is charred and blackened, about 10-15 minutes - the vegetables may be ready at different times, the peppers probably last. When ready, remove the leeks and tomatillos and set them aside. Place the peppers in a small bowl, cover with a cloth or, preferably, plastic wrap, and allow the skins to steam off for 10 minutes or so.
  3. While your peppers steam, heat your vegetable oil over medium-high heat in a large pot and add in your ground beef and/or pork, cooking until no longer pink, about 8 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and add in your salt, cumin, cayenne pepper and beer. Bring to a simmer.
  4. Peel the skins off of your peppers, slice off the heads and remove the seeds (you can leave some seeds for heat - I did). Puree together the leeks, tomatillos and peppers until a paste is formed. Add it to your ground meat and stir to combine.
  5. Cook your chili over medium heat for 30 minutes or so, until the beer has reduced. Add the juice of 1 lime and stir. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Serve with sour cream and sliced scallions.


7 Responses

  1. sweatequalssuccess says:

    There are leeks in my fridge quivering in anticipation. I’ll just imagine I’m kickin’ it, swamp style, while I chow down.

  2. philologue says:

    This looks AMAZING – soon as I’m back state-side gonna give it a try. What would be an acceptable substitute for the beer?

  3. Andrew says:

    What a terrible recipe… leek sizes and tomatillos vary so greatly in size from region to region. you should be using weight or liquid measurements. I tried this recipe only to find leeks in my area must be 3 times the size you have. And those tomatillos in the pics are in no way large. Ended up with a goopy mess of a meal

  4. Gavin says:

    I had a lot of leeks and tomatillos and hot peppers from the garden left and this recipe made great use of the times. I made substitutes to keep it vegan and it was wonderful.

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