A HEALTHY THANKSGIVING....

WHEN MY FRIENDS AT O2X HUMAN PERFORMANCE ASKED ME TO PUT SOME HEALTHY RECIPES TOGETHER FOR THANKSGIVING, I KNEW I HAD TO ACCEPT THE CHALLENGE. I MEAN, IT IS A CHALLENGE RIGHT? HEALTHY AND HOLIDAY ARE TWO WORDS THAT NEVER APPEAR ON THE SAME MENU IN THE FIREHOUSE. WE ALWAYS USE IT AS AN EXCUSE TO OVERINDULGE NOT MATTER WHAT WE ARE CELEBRATING. AND IN ORDER TO MAKE THANKSGIVING A HEALTHY ONE, I KNEW I HAD TO APPROACH IT WITH CAUTION.

I DECIDED TO TAKE SOME OF THE '“CLASSICS” AND PUT A SLIGHTLY HEALTHIER TWIST ON THEM BY OMITTING SOME DAIRY, FAT AND PROCESSED INGREDIENTS. FIGURING OUT HOW TO KEEP THE FLAVORS OF THOSE RECIPES WE LOOK FORWARD TO WHILE MAKING THEM HEALTHIER WAS CERTAINLY NOT EASY, BUT IT WAS DEFINITELY FUN! I EVEN USED IT AS AN EXCUSE TO “EXPERIMENT” WITH BRINING TURKEY BREAST…BUT FOR NOW, WE FEAST!

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DRY BRINE OR WET BRINE…THAT IS THE QUESTION!

I used this opportunity to test out something I have been thinking about for quite some time, is it better to wet or dry brine turkey? But before I proceed let’s define briefly what the hell it even means…simply put, dry brine is the use of salt (and other spices) with NO water to add flavor to an ingredient. And wet brining is the use of a salt and water solution to do the same, although some add sugar and other spices to this as well.

In short, here I took two boneless turkey breast and dry brined one with just kosher salt overnight in the fridge. I left it uncovered and on a rack to allow the circulating air to dry out the skin, in hopes of achieving a crispier skin. The other breast I wet brined in a salt/sugar/water solution in a ziplock bag. Both were brined for 10 hours. I removed them both from fridge, drained the wet brined breast and allowed them to come up to temperature on the counter for 1 .5 hours. I then cooked them the same…325* for about an hour until 140* internal and then under the broiler to crisp up the skin and continue cooking until the breast reached 150* (FDA recommends 165* but read this article about turkey breast temp)

The general consensus was that the wet brined breast was juicier but the dry brined yielded a crispier skin. The flavors were very similar from a seasoning perspective, so I guess it comes down to what you are looking for. But I will say this, with both brines I used less gravy because neither breast was dry! See what works for you…

 Left: Dry Brine Right: Wet Brine

Left: Dry Brine Right: Wet Brine

 Left: Dry Brine Right: Wet Brine

Left: Dry Brine Right: Wet Brine

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MASHED SWEET POTATO WITH BACON, MAPLE AND PECAN GLAZE

 Instead of dairy and fat ladened traditional mashed potatoes, give these a shot!

Instead of dairy and fat ladened traditional mashed potatoes, give these a shot!

Serves 4

Ingredients:

4 Sweet Potatoes, peeled and cut into 2” cubes

3 Slices of Bacon, chopped

1 C Pecans, toasted and chopped

1 C Maple Syrup

2 Tbs. Chile Powder

Pinch of Cinnamon

Dash of Vanilla Extract

Salt, to taste

Procedure:

  • Steam cut sweet potatoes until tender, set aside.

  • In a medium skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until browned and the fat has rendered.  Add the chile powder, pecans and maple syrup. Cook over low heat until reduced by ½ and bubbling.  Set aside.

  • While the bacon mixture cooks, mash the sweet potato in a large bowl.  Add the cinnamon, vanilla and salt to taste, combine well. Place the sweet potato mix into small serving bowl and drizzle the bacon-maple mixture over top.  Serve

SLOW COOKED GREEN BEANS WITH MUSHROOM AND SHALLOTS

 The green beans, mushrooms and shallots…..without the fat, preservatives and calories!

The green beans, mushrooms and shallots…..without the fat, preservatives and calories!

Serves 4

Ingredients:

24 oz. Green Beans

2 Shallots, peeled and sliced thin

6 Garlic Cloves, peeled and smashed

10 oz. Package of Button Mushrooms, washed and sliced

1 Tbs. Paprika

1 C Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Salt, to taste

Sherry or Cider Vinegar, to taste


Procedure:

  • Preheat oven to 350*

  • In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except the vinegar.  Put the mixture in a 6”x12” oven-safe casserole dish or deep baking pan.  Place the dish in the oven and bake for 1 hour, turning the beans every 10 minutes to cook evenly.  Remove from oven and add a dash of vinegar. Taste and adjust seasoning.

SPROUTED GRAIN BREAD-TURKEY SAUSAGE STUFFING WITH APPLE

 Instead of using highly processed white bread, this sprouted grain bread packs fiber and protein. And the use of turkey sausage also lowers calories too!

Instead of using highly processed white bread, this sprouted grain bread packs fiber and protein. And the use of turkey sausage also lowers calories too!

Serves 4

Ingredients:

6 Slices Day Old Sprouted Grain Bread (i.e. Ezikiel’s), torn into bite size pieces

2 C Onion, chopped

2 C Carrots, chopped

2 C Celery, chopped

1 Apple, chopped

1 Garlic Clove, chopped

16 oz. Turkey Sausage, loose or out of casing

2 Eggs, room temperature

1 C Turkey, Chicken or Vegetable Stock

1 Tbs. Each of Fresh Sage, Thyme and Parsley, chopped

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper, to taste


Procedure:

  • Preheat oven to 350*

  • In a medium cast iron pan or skillet, heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat.  Add turkey sausage and brown, remove and set aside.

  • In the same skillet, add the onion, carrot and celery mixture.  Add a pinch of salt and pepper, and cook until lightly browned. Add the reserved sausage, fresh herbs and bread and continue to cook for a minute or two.

  • While the vegetable and sausage mix cooks, combine the eggs, stock and a pinch of salt in a bowl.

  • Take the pan/skillet off heat and let cool for a few minutes before adding the egg/stock mixture.  Stir to combine. If using a skillet, transfer the mixture to a greased 10”x10” baking pan. Drizzle the top with a little olive oil.  Place the stuffing in the oven for 25 minutes or until the top is browned.

Posted on November 19, 2018 and filed under DINNER.

HANGAR STEAK SALAD - GRILLED PEARS, GORGONZOLA, BALSAMIC-YOGURT DRESSING

EVERYDAY, IN FIREHOUSES ALL OVER, MASSIVE AMOUNTS OF SANDWICHES ARE CONSUMED FOR LUNCH. BUT WHAT ABOUT WHEN YOU WANT SOMETHING ON THE LIGHTER SIDE THAT STILL APPEALS TO THE CREW? ENTER….THE STEAK SALAD. LET’S BE REAL, ANYTIME THE WORD STEAK IS ON THE MENU, IT IS MUCH EASIER TO PURSUADE EVERYONE TO EAT WHATEVER THE HELL IT IS YOU PLAN ON MAKING. AND WHEN IT COMES TO WHICH CUT TO USE FOR A STEAK SALAD, I ALWAYS GO WITH QUICK COOKING, FLAVORFUL ONES LIKE SKIRT, FLANK, AND IN THIS CASE, HANGAR. AND TO BE HONEST, THIS SALAD EVEN MAKES A GREAT SANDWICH!

YOU MAY BE WONDERING WHY ON EARTH I DECIDED TO GRILL PEARS… LET ME EXPLAIN. FIRST OFF THEY ARE IN SEASON, AND ANYTIME AN INGREDIENT IS IN SEASON IT WILL TASTE BETTER AND MORE OFTEN THAN NOT BE CHEAPER. BUT THE REASON I GRILLED THEM IS BECAUSE I WANTED TO ADD ANOTHER LAYER OF FLAVOR, CARAMELIZING THE NATURAL SUGARS IN THE PEAR. THE SWEETNESS OF THE PEAR IS BALANCED OUT BY THE SALTY-NESS OF THE GORGONZOLA AND ACIDITY OF THE DRESSING. THE SLIGHTLY BITTER BITE OF THE ARUGULA ROUND OUT THE WHOLE DISH….BASICALLY IT HITS ALL THE FEELS.

 Using yogurt in the dressing adds a creaminess to it , while adding extra protein!

Using yogurt in the dressing adds a creaminess to it , while adding extra protein!

Hangar Steak Salad - Grilled Pears, Gorgonzola, Balsamic Yogurt Dressing

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 lb. Hangar Steak

1 Pear, sliced into ¼” thin wedges

Small Container Crumbled Gorgonzola

Honey

Sea Salt

Large Package of Arugula


Dressing:

½ Cup Plain Greek Yogurt, at least 5% fat

¼ Cup Balsamic Vinegar

2 Tbs. Honey

¼ Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Salt, to taste


Procedure:

  • For the Dressing: In a bowl whisk together the vinegar, honey, yogurt and salt.  Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while whisking. Taste and adjust seasoning, set aside in refrigerator.

  • Preheat grill on high

  • Place steak on a wire rack, pat dry with paper towel and season with plenty of salt.  Rest for at least 20 minutes at room temperature

  • Toss sliced pear in a bowl with drizzle of honey and EVOO and a pinch of salt

  • Grill the pears on one side just until lightly charred.  Set aside to cool (A rack on the grill will prevent pears from slipping through grates)

  • Grill steak to desired doneness, flipping frequently.  Let rest for 10 minutes before slicing against the grain.

  • Assemble salad and drizzle with Balsamic-Yogurt Dressing

Posted on November 17, 2018 and filed under LUNCH.

STUFFED PUMPKIN MAC AND CHEESE

IT SEEMS AS IF NOW, MORE THAN EVER, PUMPKIN FLAVORED ANYTHING IS ACCEPTABLE. AND WHILE THE PUMPKIN SPICED LATTE IS MY NEMESIS, BECAUSE I LIKE COFFEE FLAVORED COFFEE, I CAN UNDERSTAND IT’S APPEAL. I TRULY BELIEVE THE PUMPKIN PHENOMENON HAS ALOT MORE TO IT THAN THE ACTUAL FLAVORS OF CINNAMON, NUTMEG, CLOVES, ETC, ETC. WHEN WE TASTE THESE FLAVORS, THERE IS SOME DEGREE OF NOSTALGIA THAT COMES ALONG WITH IT. IT’S AS THOUGH THE LEAVES WON’T START CHANGING, THE JACK O’ LANTERNS WON’T GET CARVED AND THE HOODIES WON’T LEAVE THE CLOSET IF THE PUMPKIN SPICED EVERYTHING’S AREN’T IN STORES. AND FOR THOSE REASONS I AM NOT MAD AT THIS WHOLE CRAZY SCENE, ESPECIALLY BECAUSE HALLOWEEN IS MY FAVORITE HOLIDAY OF THE YEAR. BUT ANYWAYS, BACK TO THE FOOD…

PUMPKINS, BELIEVE IT OR NOT, ARE FRUITS. AND THERE ARE MANY VARIETIES, BOTH EDIBLE AND INEDIBLE BUT FOR THIS RECIPE WE USE THE SMALL “SUGAR PUMPKIN” BECAUSE OF NOT ONLY IS THE FLESH EDIBLE, BUT THE SKIN AS WELL. THEY ARE A PART OF THE WINTER SQUASH FAMILY, ALONG WITH BUTTERNUT, HONEYNUT, DELICATA AND ACORN SQUASHES. AND THESE ARE JUST A FEW EXAMPLES, NEXT TIME YOU GO TO THE FARMERS MARKET IN LATE SEPTEMBER - EARLY OCTOBER, ASK THE FARMERS WHAT VARIETIES THEY HAVE ON HAND BECAUSE YOU WOULD BE SURPRISED HOW MANY ARE AVAILABLE. PUMPKINS ARE GREAT SOURCES OF VITAMIN A AND BETA CAROTENE, AND BECAUSE THEY HAVE MILD FLAVOR, THINK OF THEM AS A BLANK CANVAS OR IN THE CASE OF THIS RECIPE, AN EDIBLE BOWL TO PUT MAC AND CHEESE IN!

STUFFED PUMPKIN MAC AND CHEESE

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Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

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1 Sugar Pumpkin

1 lb. Pasta, shells preferred

1 lb. Cheddar Cheese, shredded

1/2 lb. Gruyere, shredded

16 oz. Heavy Cream

8 oz. Canned Unsweetened Pumpkin Puree

Salt, to taste and for pasta water

Optional Garnish:

Caramelized Onions (recipe below)

Spiced Roasted Pumpkin Seeds (recipe below)

Chives

Crumbled Bacon would be crazy good with this!

Procedure:

  • Preheat oven to 350*

  • Cut out top of pumpkin and scoop out the stringy flesh and seeds. Rinse seeds and reserve of making toasted seeds.

  • Drizzle some olive oil and sprinkle salt inside the pumpkin. Place top of pumpkin back on and wrap stem with foil. Put on a sheet pan and place in oven for about 45 minutes or until a fork can pierce flesh.

  • While the pumpkin cooks, cook pasta in very well salted water until al dente. Drain and set aside while you prepare the cheese sauce.

  • Combine heavy cream and pumpkin puree in a large skillet. Bring to a low boil and reduce for about 2-3 minutes. Set aside 1 cup of the shredded cheeses. Add the remaining cheese a handful at a time, stirring until the all the cheese is melted and incorporated. Add the cooked pasta, stirring to combine until the sauce coats all of the pasta. If using caramelized onion, add it at this time and stir in.

  • Shut off the heat, spoon the mac and cheese into the pumpkin, top with the reserved shredded cheese and place back in the oven to melt the cheese or place under the broiler. Remove, let cool for 5-10 minutes to allow for easier slicing. Garnish with spiced seeds and chives.

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Caramelized Onions:

Cook one thin sliced onion with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt over very low heat, until caramelized to your liking. Deglaze with water or beer if the onions start to get dry.

Spiced Roasted Pepitas (pumpkin seeds):

After rinsing seeds, place in a small pot of well salted boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain and let cool. Toss with a little olive oil, pinch of salt and spices of your choice, such as Garam Masala or Chili Powder. Spread out on a sheet pan and roast in oven until crisp.

Posted on September 30, 2018 and filed under DINNER.

GRILLED PORK TENDERLOIN. CHARRED KALE SALAD. PESTO-YOGURT DRESSING

THE SUMMERS END IS DRAWING NEAR, BUT THAT DOESN'T MEAN WE SHOULD JUST GO AND GIVE UP ON HER!  BASIL IS ON IT'S LAST LEG IN THE GARDEN SO I THINK IT IS RIGHT THAT WE USE ALL THAT WE CAN.  AND ONE SURE FIRE WAY TO DO THIS IS MAKE PESTO!  BUT PESTO, WHICH TRANSLATES TO PASTE IN ITALIAN, DOES NOT ALWAYS HAVE TO BE USED STRICTLY FOR PASTA.  IT MAKES A GREAT BASE FOR DRESSINGS AS WELL.  AND DON'T THINK FOR A SECOND YOU HAVE TO USE BASIL, PESTOS CAN PRETTY MUCH BE MADE WITH ANYTHING SO AS LONG AS THE TEXTURE IS PASTE-LIKE, SO GO AHEAD AND USE KALE, ARUGULA, SUN-DRIED TOMATOES OR WHATEVER NEEDS TO GET USED IN THE FRIDGE.  

AND YOU ARE PROBABLY SAYING TO YOURSELF, WHY THE HELL WOULD SOMEONE CHAR THEIR KALE?!  THE ANSWER IS SIMPLE, BECAUSE I WANTED TO!  THAT IS THE BEAUTY OF COOKING, TRYING NEW THINGS AND SEEING IF THEY WORK, AND THIS TOTALLY WORKED.  THE CHAR ADDS ANOTHER LAYER OF FLAVOR TO ENHANCE THE GRILLED PORK AND STANDS UP TO THE PUNCHY YOGURT DRESSING, WHICH ADDS JUST THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF FAT NEEDED FOR THE WHOLE DISH.  I LOVE USING TECHNIQUES WHICH ADD FLAVOR WITHOUT THE NEED TO ADD ADDITIONAL FAT OR CALORIES AND THIS IS ONE DOESN'T DISAPPOINT.

 SO DON'T JUST GO THROWING THE COVER ON THE GRILLS JUST YET AND GIVE THIS RECIPE A TRY!

GRILLED PORK TENDERLOIN.  CHARRED KALE SALAD. 

PESTO-YOGURT DRESSING

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Serves 4

Ingredients:

Pork:

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1 Pork Tenderloin (Approximately 1 lb.)

1 tsp. Kosher Salt

1 tsp. Garlic Powder

1 tsp. Paprika

Salad:

1 Bunch of Kale, washed and torn into small pieces

Olive Oil

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1 Lemon, cut in half

¼ Red Onion, thin sliced and soaked in cold water while preparing ingredients

¼ cup Pepperoncini, thin sliced

¼ cup Toasted Pistachio, chopped (sub any nut of choice)

Pesto-Yogurt Dressing

1 Large Bunch of Fresh Basil (reserve a few leaves for garnish)

¼ cup Parmesan

1 Garlic Clove, chopped

¼ cup Pistachio, (sub any nut of choice)

¼ cup Plain Greek Yogurt

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Salt, to tase

Procedure:

Preheat grill on medium-high heat

Place pork tenderloin in a ziplock bag with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, garlic powder and paprika and marinate while grill is preheating.

Toss kale in a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil, massage with hands to soften kale.  

If you have a baking rack, place on grill. Place the lemon and kale on the grill.  When the kale starts to char in some spots, remove from heat and place back in the bowl.  Squeeze the lemon onto the kale and toss. Taste and season with salt.

Remove rack if used, oil grates and grill pork for 12-15 minutes or until internal temp reaches 140*, turning every minute.  Remove and rest for 10 minutes, slice thin.

While the pork cooks, make the pesto by combining the basil, parmesan, garlic, pistachio in a food processor or blender.  Add the yogurt and pinch of salt, pulse to combine. With the motor running, drizzle just enough olive oil to combine.  Taste and adjust seasoning

Assemble the salad, garnish with fresh basil and enjoy!

Posted on August 27, 2018 and filed under LUNCH, DINNER.

CHICKEN SAUSAGE STUFFED PEPPERS WITH MUSHROOM RAGU

Stuffed peppers are the quintessential firehouse meal.  It is essentially a one pan dish that is easy to assemble which means less dishes for the crew to clean.  It is also infinitely customizable and I could probably say I have never made them the same way twice but this recipe is definitely up there with my favorites.  I wanted to lighten it up a little so I decided on using chicken sausage and making a ragu with mushrooms.  The chicken sausage tricks us into thinking we are eating traditional pork sausage while keeping the calories and fat lower.  Typically pork sausage has 290-455 calories and 23-38 grams of fat per link, while chicken and turkey sausage have 140-160 calories and 7-10 grams of fat for the same amount.  The mushroom ragu provides the added factor of umami to the dish and also helps keep the calories low.  This ragu is also great over pasta, which is exactly what I did when I competed on Food Network's Guy's Grocery Games!

 This dish is proof that a firehouse classic can be turned into something healthy AND delicious!

CHICKEN SAUSAGE STUFFED PEPPERS WITH MUSHROOM RAGU

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Serves 3

STUFFED PEPPER INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 Cup Cooked Rice, White or Brown
  • 4 Bell Peppers, cut in half lengthwise and seeded, ribs removed
  • 1 lb. Chicken Sausage
  • 1 Yellow Onion, sliced thin
  • 1 Cubanelle Pepper, seeded and sliced thin
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, chopped
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 Cup Panko Breadcrumbs
  • ½ Cup Parmesan Cheese

STUFFED PEPPER PROCEDURE:

  • Preheat oven to 400*
  • In a large skillet over medium heat, add a little olive oil and the chicken sausage.  Brown and cook through. Remove and set aside.

  • Add the Cubanelle pepper and onions, saute until onion is translucent.  Add the garlic and stir to prevent burning. Remove and place in a bowl with the rice.

  • Chop the sausage into bite size pieces and add to the rice/pepper/onion bowl.  Taste and adjust seasoning.

  • In a small bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil.

  • Pour the mushroom ragu (recipe below) into a baking pan.  Place the halved peppers on top and stuff with the rice mixture.  Top each pepper with the breadcrumb mixture. Place in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the breadcrumbs are golden brown.

 

QUICK MUSHROOM RAGU INGREDIENTS:

  • 8 oz. Package of Mushrooms, chopped
  • 28 oz. Crushed Tomatoes
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, chopped
  • 1 Tsp. Dry Basil
  • 1 Tsp. Chili Flakes

PROCEDURE:

  • In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add enough olive oil to just cover bottom.  Add the chopped mushrooms and stir until all the water is out of them and they start to brown.  Lower the heat to low, add the chili flake, garlic and dried basil. When the garlic just starts to color, add the tomatoes.  Cook at a simmer while you assemble the peppers.
Posted on May 1, 2018 and filed under DINNER.

SWEET POTATO-TURKEY SHEPHERD'S PIE

THE IRISH HAVE BEEN IN THE FIRE SERVICE FOR A VERY LONG TIME, WITH DEEP ROOTED TRADITIONS THAT EVEN THE NON-IRISH PARTICIPATE IN, MYSELF INCLUDED.  THE PIPES AND DRUMS HAVE BECOME SYNONYMOUS WITH CELEBRATORY OCCASIONS AND FUNERALS.  EVERY YEAR THOUSANDS OF FIREFIGHTERS TRAVEL ACROSS THE COUNTRY TO MARCH IN PARADES.  ACROSS FIREHOUSE TABLES ON ST. PATRICK'S DAY, THERE WILL BE CORNED BEEF AND CABBAGE, SHEPHERD'S PIE AND PROBABLY A GOOD OL' FASHIONED FRY UP FOR BREAKFAST. 
ONE OF MY FAVORITE THINGS TO DO IS TAKE TRADITIONAL DISHES AND PUT A HEALTHY SPIN ON IT....SO SWEET POTATO-TURKEY SHEPHERD'S PIE IT IS!!  SWAPPING IN SWEET POTATOES ADDS MORE FIBER, WHILE  USING TURKEY INSTEAD OF BEEF OR LAMB ADDS PROTEIN WITH LESS FAT.  GIVE IT A TRY!!

SWEET POTATO-TURKEY SHEPHERD'S PIE

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Ingredients:

1.5 Lb. Ground Turkey
6 Sweet Potatoes
½ Yellow Onion, diced
2 Garlic Cloves, diced
4 Medium Carrots, peeled and diced
8 oz. Mushrooms, quartered
10 oz. Frozen Peas
10 oz. Frozen Corn
2 Sprigs Fresh Rosemary- leaves removed and finely chopped
14.5 Can of Low-Sodium Chicken Broth
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
½ tsp Ground Cinnamon
½ tsp Paprika
½ tsp Cayenne Pepper
2 tsp. Flour
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Procedure:

Preheat oven to 500*

In a large pot, place sweet potatoes with enough cold water to cover.  Salt the water like you would pasta water.  Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer and cook until soft, approximately 30 minutes.  Remove and set aside to cool.

While the potatoes are cooking, place a large skillet over medium heat.  Add a couple glugs of olive oil.  When the oil is shimmering add the ground turkey, seasoning with a little salt and pepper.  When the turkey starts to brown, stir it until cooked through and set aside.  In the same pan add a little more olive oil and the onions and carrots.  When the onions are translucent add the mushrooms and saute until nicely browned and no moisture is left in the pan.  Add the garlic and rosemary, stirring often.  

Now add the turkey back to the pan with the peas and corn.  Sprinkle the flour in, stir and cook for a minute or so.  Add in the broth, bring to a boil and lower to a simmer for a few minutes until thickened.  Place mixture in an oven-proof baking dish or tray.

Now that the potatoes have cooled, peel the skin (you could chop the skin and add to turkey mixture for extra nutrients).  In a large bowl add the potato flesh, a drizzle of olive oil, pinch of salt and the spices.  Mash with a fork, taste and adjust seasoning.  Spread on top of the turkey mixture.  For a nicer presentation place the potato in a ziploc bag, cut one corner tip of the bag and squeeze the mixture on top of turkey like a pastry bag.

Place in the oven for 10-15 minutes until the top has browned.  You can also use the broiler if you have one.  Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Posted on March 16, 2018 and filed under DINNER.

LENTIL SOUP

I CAN HONESTLY SAY I DON'T REMEMBER WHEN I STARTED LIKING LENTILS.  THERE ISN'T ANY MOMENT IN TIME THAT I CAN RECALL SAYING "WOW, I REALLY LIKE THESE", BUT FOR SOME REASON LATELY I HAVE BEEN ALL ABOUT THESE LEGUMES.  A CLASSIC RUSTIC PREPARATION IS LENTIL SOUP, SO NATURALLY....HERE IS MY RECIPE FOR IT.

LENTIL SOUP

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INGREDIENTS:

1/2 Yellow Onion, diced

3 Medium Carrots, peeled and diced

1 Celery Rib, diced

1 Garlic Clove, diced

1 Tbs. Ground Coriander

1 Tbs. Ground Cumin

1 Tbs. Paprika

2 Sprigs of Fresh Thyme, leaves picked

1 Bay Leaf

3 Cups of Dried Lentils

6 Cups of Chicken or Vegetable Broth

14.5 oz. Can of Diced Tomatoes

Salt and Pepper, to taste

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

 

Procedure:

In a dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot over medium heat, add enough oil to just cover bottom of pan and add onion.  When onions start to turn translucent, add the carrots and celery.  When vegetables start to turn a light brown, add the garlic, thyme and spices.  Season with a pinch of salt and add the lentils, stirring for about a minute.  Add the tomatoes, broth, bay leaf and bring to a boil.

Once it comes to a boil, reduce to a simmer for about 35-45 minutes or until the lentils are tender.  Using a stick blender or conventional blender (careful doing this with hot liquid), blend about a quarter of the soup and return to the pot.  Stir, taste for seasoning and serve.

Optional: Garnish with fresh parsley and lemon

Posted on January 27, 2018 and filed under LUNCH.

MINESTRONE SOUP

WHEN THE COLD WEATHER COMES IN FULL FORCE, I CRAVE SOUP...ALOT.  BUT NOT SOME CAMPBELL'S CHICKEN NOODLE, I AM TALKING ABOUT HOMEMADE SOUP MADE WITH LOVE.  MAYBE IT'S MY GRANDMOTHER'S ITALIAN WEDDING SOUP WITH GRATED PARM THAT STARTED MY SOUP INFATUATION.  WHATEVER IT IS, A HOT BOWL ON A COLD DAY STILL WARMS MY HEART.  

MINESTRONE SOUP

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 Yellow Onion, chopped
  • 3 Cloves of Garlic, chopped
  • 3 Carrots, peeled and rough chopped
  • 3 Celery Stalks, rough chopped
  • 3 Yukon Gold Potatoes, cubed
  • 5 Stalks Kale, leaves torn and stems chopped
  • Handful Fresh Green Beans, ends removed and cut into 1” pieces
  • 2 Zucchini, chopped
  • 1 Sprig of Fresh Rosemary
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1 T Tomato Paste
  • 28 oz. Can of Diced Tomatoes (No Salt Added if possible)
  • 48 oz. Low Sodium Chicken Broth
  • 19 oz. Can of Cannellini Beans
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Chili Flakes
  • Salt to taste

PROCEDURE:

Heat a large Dutch oven or pot over medium heat.  Add enough oil to just coat the bottom of the pot.  When the oil starts to shimmer, add the onions, bay leaf and rosemary.  Season with a pinch of salt and chili flake.  When the onions are translucent add the garlic, carrots, celery and kale.  Stirring often, cook until the vegetables are light golden brown.  Add the tomato paste and stir for about a minute.

Stir in the diced tomatoes and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated.  Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer.  Add the potatoes, half of the beans, zucchini and green beans.  Continue cooking until the potatoes are soft, about 20 minutes.  

 

While the soup is cooking, take a ladle of soup broth and put in a blender with the remaining half of the beans.  Let cool for a couple minutes.  Carefully, blend the beans and add the bean puree to the soup.  

Taste and season before serving.  Garnish with celery leaves, parmesan cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.

 

Posted on January 25, 2018 and filed under LUNCH.

TUSCAN WHITE CHICKEN CHILI

ONE OF THE REASONS I STARTED F&H CO. WAS TO SHOW THE WORLD THAT FIREFIGHTERS COOK MORE THAN JUST CHILI.  BUT SOMETIMES A BOWL OF THIS FIREHOUSE STAPLE IS JUST WHAT YOU NEED ON A CHILLY DAY.  AS WITH MOST TIMES I COOK, I LIKE TO EXPERIMENT WITH FLAVORS, TAKING INFLUENCE FROM MY TRAVELS.
THIS RECIPE IS INSPIRED BY MY FAVORITE REGION IN ITALY, TUSCANY.  I CAN STILL HEAR THE CHURCH BELLS RINGING AND SMELL THE WOOD BURNING STOVES AS WE WALKED THE COBBLESTONE STREETS ON MY HONEYMOON.  WHEN THERE IS A CHILL IN THE AIR AND I SMELL ROSEMARY AND GARLIC FRYING IN OLIVE OIL, IT TAKES ME BACK TO THAT WONDERFUL PLACE.  
AND SO HERE IS MY WAY OF PUTTING ALL THOSE TUSCAN FLAVORS INTO A FAMILIAR FIREHOUSE DISH!
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Tuscan White Chicken Chili

with Balsamic Caramelized Onions and Fennel

Smoked Mozzarella

INGREDIENTS:

1 SMALL ONION, chopped

 The "Battuto", which is what turns into the "Soffritto" once it is cooked

The "Battuto", which is what turns into the "Soffritto" once it is cooked

2 GARLIC CLOVES, chopped

2 CUBANELLE a.k.a ITALIAN FRYING PEPPERS, seeded and chopped (sub green bell peppers)

1 CELERY STALK, chopped

1 SPRIG OF FRESH ROSEMARY, minced

2 FRESH SAGE LEAVES, minced

1 TBSP. CHILI FLAKES

2.5 # BONELESS, SKINLESS CHICKEN THIGHS

4 THICK SLICES OF PANCETTA, chopped (sub bacon)

2 -19 oz. CANS OF CANNELLINI BEANS

16 oz. LOW SODIUM CHICKEN BROTH

2 tsp. FLOUR

EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

1 tsp. CUMIN

1 tsp. GARLIC POWDER

 Smoked Mozzarella but you can substitute shredded mozzarella.  Pro tip:  Put ball of Smoked Mozzarella in freezer until firm, it will be easier to slice!

Smoked Mozzarella but you can substitute shredded mozzarella.  Pro tip:  Put ball of Smoked Mozzarella in freezer until firm, it will be easier to slice!

SALT AND PEPPER, to taste

OPTIONAL BUT RECOMMENDED GARNISHES:

BALSAMIC CARAMELIZED ONIONS AND FENNEL - Recipe Follows

SMOKED MOZZARELLA - cover chili with slices and broil until brown and bubbly

 

PROCEDURE:

In a large bowl, combine minced sage and rosemary with half of the chopped garlic, chili flakes, a pinch of salt, black pepper and a glug of olive oil.  Stir to combine and set aside.

Dice the chicken thighs and put into the bowl containing the rosemary-sage mixture.  Stir to combine and place in the refrigerator until ready to use.

In a dutch oven or heavy bottomed deep pot over medium heat, cook the pancetta until the fat has rendered.  Once the pancetta is cooked, add a glug of olive oil and the onion, remaining garlic, peppers and celery.  Add a pinch of salt, cumin and garlic powder and cook, stirring occasionally until the onions just start to color.  Sprinkle in the flour and stir to combine.

Add the chicken to the pot and enough chicken broth to cover.  Add water if needed. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer, stirring occasionally. 

After about an hour, remove about a 1/2 cup of the broth to a blender or bowl if you have a stick-blender.  Add one can of the beans to the broth and blend well.  BE VERY CAREFUL WHEN BLENDING HOT LIQUIDS!  Add water if you need to.  Place the bean puree back into the pot and continue to cook for another hour or so at a gentle simmer.  Taste and check for seasoning and consistency.

Lay slices of Smoked Mozzarella on top and broil until brown and bubbly.  Garnish with Balsamic Caramelized Onions and Fennel

 

Note* - This recipe can be adapted for slow-cooker.  Render the pancetta in a saute pan.  Add the garlic, onion, peppers and celery and saute until light brown.  Place this mixture along with the rest of the ingredients into slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

 

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BALSAMIC CARAMELIZED ONIONS AND FENNEL

INGREDIENTS:

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1 ONION, thin sliced

1 SMALL HEAD OF FENNEL, white part only, thin sliced, reserve the fronds

2 TBSP. BUTTER

1 tsp. EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

2 TBSP. BALSAMIC VINEGAR

SALT, to taste

 

PROCEDURE:

In a large skillet, over low heat, add the butter and olive oil.  When the butter has melted, add the onion and fennel with a pinch of salt. 

Cook the onions and fennel, stirring often, for about 1 hour.  Add a few drops of water if the mixture looks a little dry.  When they start to color a nice golden brown, add the balsamic vinegar.  Stir and cook for a few minutes.  Taste and adjust for seasoning. 

 

 

 

 

Posted on December 17, 2017 and filed under LUNCH, DINNER.

ANOTHER FIREHOUSE COOKBOOK...BUT NOT JUST ANY

THERE ARE TWO KINDS OF BOOKS I READ...BOOKS ABOUT FOOD AND COOKBOOKS.  I ENJOY SITTING DOWN IN THE MORNING AND READING A FEW PAGES WHILE I DRINK MY COFFEE, OR ON THE TRAIN HEADING TO THE RESTAURANT, OR AT NIGHT RIGHT BEFORE BED, OR, WELL YOU GET THE IDEA.  THERE AREN'T MANY SECONDS OF THE DAY THAT MY MIND IS NOT THINKING ABOUT FOOD SO WHEN I COME ACROSS A GREAT COOKBOOK, I GET EXCITED AND INSPIRED.  AND THAT IS JUST WHAT "FIREHOUSE CHEF" DID FOR ME!  THE AUTHOR, PATRICK MATHIEU, IS A FIREFIGHTER FROM CANADA AND HAS BEEN GIVING F&H CO. SOME GREAT MEALS TO SHARE ON INSTAGRAM.  SO WHEN I GOT THE BOOK, IT WAS NO SURPRISE THE QUALITY AND CARE THAT WENT INTO PUBLISHING IT!
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YOU CAN TELL BY THE COVER THAT PHOTO QUALITY WAS VERY IMPORTANT TO PATRICK.  THE STYLE IS MUCH MORE CONTEMPORARY THAN ONE MIGHT EXPECT FROM A FIREHOUSE COOKBOOK.

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HERE IS A LITTLE TEASE OF WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT RIGHT OFF THE BAT, A SOLID SOUP RECIPE THAT IS PERFECT FOR THE FIREHOUSE OR HOME.  THE RECIPES RANGE FROM EASY TO ADVANCED AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN, NEEDLESS TO SAY THERE IS SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE!

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ANOTHER THING I LOVE ABOUT "FIREHOUSE CHEF" IS THAT IT HAS RECIPES THAT HELP YOU COOK "OUTSIDE THE BOX", LIKE THESE THAI DRUNKEN NOODLES FOR INSTANCE.  AND WHO DOESN'T LOVE A GOOD BOWL OF NOODLES?!?!?!?

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AND JUST IN CASE YOU FORGOT THAT YOU ARE ACTUALLY READING A FIREHOUSE COOKBOOK, PATRICK REMINDS YOU BY THROWING IN SOME OF OUR TOOLS OF THE TRADE, LIKE THE "JAWS OF LIFE" NEXT TO "EGGS IN HELL"!

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AND DON'T WORRY, THERE IS SOME OF THE CLASSICS AS WELL....LIKE THIS CAST IRON HANGAR STEAK WITH DIJON CREAM SAUCE!

IT IS ALWAYS GREAT TO SEE FIREFIGHTERS DOING THINGS THEY LOVE AND IN THIS CASE, IT IS CLEAR THAT PATRICK HAS A PASSION FOR BOTH FIREFIGHTING AND COOKING.  I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS BOOK FOR ANYONE, NOT JUST FIREFIGHTERS!
TO PURCHASE, CLICK HERE !
Posted on December 15, 2017 .

ESCAROLE, SAUSAGE AND BEANS SOUP

THE BASIL IS STARTING TO TURN YELLOW, TOMATOES ARE STARTING TO SHOW SIGNS OF ROT AND CILANTRO HAS ALL BUT GIVEN UP ON LIFE.  THE ABUNDANCE OF SUMMER PRODUCE IS STARTING TO FADE.  BUT NO NEED TO WORRY, THE FALL DISHES WE LOVE ARE STARTING TO SHOW THEIR DELICIOUS FACES.  
WHEN THE TEMPERATURES DROP, NOTHING IS BETTER THAN THE KITCHEN SMELLS OF A SLOW SIMMERING SOUP.  AND WHY NOT TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE PRODUCE AVAILABLE THIS TIME OF YEAR?!?!  THIS RECIPE FOR ESCAROLE AND BEANS SOUP NOT ONLY BRINGS ME BACK TO A DISH OF MY CHILDHOOD BUT IT ALSO USES FRESH SEASONAL INGREDIENTS.  ESCAROLE, A MEMBER OF THE CHICORY FAMILY, IS A SLIGHTLY BITTER GREEN THAT PAIRS WELL WITH THE SWEETNESS OF THE CARROTS AND ONIONS AND RICHNESS OF THE CANNELLINI BEANS. THIS DISH CAN PREPARED IN SO MANY WAYS SO USE YOUR IMAGINATION AND WHAT IS ON HAND.  THIS RECIPE CALLS FOR SAUSAGE BUT YOU CAN ALSO SUBSTITUTE HAM, PANCETTA OR NO MEAT AT ALL, TOTALLY UP TO YOU!  ANOTHER DELICIOUS OPTION IS TO ADD SOME FRESH CHOPPED TOMATOES, MIGHT AS WELL USE THE LAST OF YOUR HARVEST BEFORE THEY GO BAD!

ESCAROLE, SAUSAGE AND BEANS SOUP

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Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:
1 Onion, peeled and chopped

1 Carrot, peeled and chopped

3 Garlic Cloves, sliced thin

½ Head of Escarole, thoroughly cleaned and rough chopped

1 lb. Hot or Sweet Italian Sausage, removed from the casings

2 - 15 oz. Cans of Cannellini Beans, drained

4 Cups of Chicken Stock (more may be needed)

Red Chili Flake

Parmesan Cheese

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Salt, to taste

PROCEDURE:

In a deep pot over medium heat, add a glug of olive oil and then the sausage.  Using a wooden spoon, break up the sausage and brown.  Remove the sausage and set aside.

In the same pan, add a little more oil if needed and add the onions and carrots.  When the onions are translucent, add the sliced garlic and a pinch of chili flakes.  When the garlic is just starting to brown, add ONE can of the beans and saute for a minute or so.  Add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer.

Add the other can of cannellini beans to a medium saucepan with enough water to cover and simmer for about 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let cool.  Add to a blender and puree the beans (be careful as hot liquid in a blender can be messy and dangerous!)  Add this puree to the soup pot along with the escarole and reserved sausage.  

Cook the soup for about 1 hour partially covered.  Taste for seasoning and serve with grated parmesan.

SOME OTHER OPTIONS YOU ADD TO THE SOUP THAT WOULD BE GREAT:

  • Put a parmesan rind into the soup while it cooks to add a rich, cheesy flavor to the stock
  • Garnish with chopped parsley
  • Substitute pork sausage with chicken or turkey sausage for a healthier option
  • A squeeze of lemon right before serving add a bright acidity to the soup
  • Substitute kale or swiss chard....or just add all of them!
Posted on October 10, 2017 and filed under DINNER.

ROPA VIEJA

ROPA VIEJA IS ONE OF CUBA'S NATIONAL DISHES AND ALSO ONE OF THE FIRST MEALS I EVER MADE AT THE FIREHOUSE.  WHEN I STARTED COOKING THIS EARLY IN MY CAREER I WOULD USE JARRED SOFRITO WHICH IS THE BASE OF THE DISH CONSISTING OF ONIONS, GARLIC, PEPPERS AND TOMATOES.  BUT NOTHING BEATS MAKING IT FROM SCRATCH AS IT ALLOWS ALL THE FLAVORS TO DEVELOP ON THEIR OWN.  AND IN CASE YOU ARE WONDERING WHAT ROPA VIEJA MEANS, IT TRANSLATES TO "OLD CLOTHES" BECAUSE AS THE BEEF SHREDS IT RESEMBLES TORN OLD CLOTHES.  BUT DON'T LET THE NAME FOOL YOU....IT'S DELICIOUS!
THIS DISH IS PERFECT FOR THE FIREHOUSE AS IT CAN SIT ON THE STOVE OR IN THE SLOW-COOKER WITHOUT FEAR OF IT OVER COOKING IF THE BELL HITS!

ROPA VIEJA

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Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

1.5 - 2 LB. FLANK STEAK

1 YELLOW ONION, sliced

2 BELL PEPPERS, seeded / sliced

1 CUBANELLE PEPPER, seeded / sliced

1 JALAPENO, seeded / sliced

2 GARLIC CLOVES, thin sliced

3 SMALL CARROTS, peeled / diced (optional)

28oz. CAN OF DICED TOMATO

1 CUP BEEF BROTH

1 TBS. DRIED OREGANO

1 Tsp. CUMIN

2 LIMES

HANDFUL OF FRESH CILANTRO, rough chopped

OLIVE OIL

KOSHER SALT, to taste

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PROCEDURE:

In a large Dutch oven or deep saute pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.  Pat the steak dry and season liberally with salt.  Place the steak in the pan, searing both sides until nicely browned.  Remove and set aside.  

Lower the heat to medium and add the onions and a small pinch of salt.  Cook the onions until soft and just starting to brown.  Add the peppers, garlic, cumin and oregano, cooking until the garlic just starts to turn pale brown.  Add the diced tomatoes with the juice, stir and cook until most of the juice has reduced.  Add the beef stock, bring to a simmer.

Meanwhile, slice the flank steak across the grain into 1 1/2" slices and place into the simmering pan.  Cover and cook for about 1.5 hours.  When the steak is fork tender, remove and set aside.  Add the carrots (if using) to the pan and reduce the sauce uncovered until it is thickened, approximately 15 minutes.  While the sauce is reducing, shred the steak and add back to the pan.  

When the sauce is the right consistency, squeeze in the limes and add the chopped cilantro.  Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve with rice and beans.

*NOTE: Traditionally this dish is usually made with green olives and sometimes capers.  Feel free to add these as well.  

 

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Posted on September 20, 2017 and filed under DINNER.

"ELOTE" STUFFED TURKEY BURGERS

"ELOTE" IS A POPULAR MEXICAN STREET FOOD THAT HAS MADE IT'S WAY TO MENUS ALL OVER THE U.S.  WHY? BECAUSE IT'S SIMPLE AND SUPER DELICIOUS!  SWEET IN-SEASON CORN, GRILLED AND THEN COVERED WITH MAYO, LIME, CHILE AND COTIJA CHEESE.  DROOLING YET!?!
ONE DAY I TOOK THIS CONCEPT AND TURNED IT INTO A SALAD BY JUST CUTTING THE GRILLED CORN OFF THE COBB AND DRESSING IT WITH ALL THE INGREDIENTS MENTIONED ABOVE.  NEEDLESS TO SAY THE GUYS AT THE FIREHOUSE LOVED IT.  SO I DECIDED TO TAKE THIS A STEP FURTHER AND STUFF IT INTO A TURKEY BURGER BECAUSE WHY THE HELL NOT?!  

"ELOTE" STUFFED TURKEY BURGERS

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Serves 3

 

INGREDIENTS:

1.25 # GROUND TURKEY

3 EARS OF CORN

2 JALAPENOS, Seeded and Chopped

ZEST AND JUICE OF 1 LIME

1/2 tsp. GROUND CUMIN

1 Tbsp. CHILE POWDER

1/2 CUP OF MAYO

1/2 CUP OF GRATED COTIJA CHEESE (SUB PARMESAN IF YOU CAN'T GET COTIJA)

SMALL BUNCH OF FRESH CILANTRO, chopped

KOSHER SALT TO TASTE

1/4 # PEPPER JACK CHEESE

 

PROCEDURE:

Preheat grill at medium heat

Grill corn until charred, cut off the cob and reserve in a bowl.  Scrape the cob with the back of a knife into the bowl.  Combine the remaining ingredients except the cheese.  Stir to combine.  Tear two slices of cheese into the bowl and stir.

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Divide the ground turkey into six equal portions.  Form patties about 1/2" thick. On three of the patties spoon the "Elote" filling, reserving about a 1/4 of the "Elote".  Take the three remaining patties and place on top of the others, sealing the edges well and forming into a burger shape.  Season both sides liberally with kosher salt. 

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Oil or spray the grill with non-stick spray.  Place the burgers on the grill and grill for 4-5 minutes on one side, flip and top with reserved Elote.  Top with remaining Pepper Jack, close grill and cook for another 4-5 minutes.  Garnish with more mayo and hot sauce!

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Posted on August 24, 2017 and filed under LUNCH.

GRILLED CHICKEN PARM ALLA VODKA

WHEN I FOUND OUT I WASN'T GOING TO BE ABLE TO MAKE IT TO THE IGNITE.INSPIRE EVENT AT THE WORLD POLICE AND FIRE GAMES, PUT ON BY CHIEF MILLER AND RED FROM RED'S PANTRY TO BENEFIT 555 FITNESS' L.A.CITY FIRE FITNESS GRANT, I WAS  BUMMED TO SAY THE LEAST.  BUT I KNEW I WANTED TO PARTICIPATE IN SOME CAPACITY, AND BEING THAT TITO'S VODKA WAS ONE OF THE BIG SPONSORS, I SAID WHY NOT USE THEIR PRODUCT IN SOME WAY....AND THEN IT HIT ME!  VODKA SAUCE!  BUT RATHER THAN MAKE SOME SAUCE AND THROW IT ON PASTA, I WANTED TO SWITCH IT UP A LITTLE.  SO I DECIDED TO TAKE A CLASSIC FIREHOUSE MEAL LIKE CHICKEN PARM AND MAKE IT A TOUCH HEALTHIER AND A LOT MORE DELICIOUS!
SO I WHIPPED UP A BATCH OF THIS VODKA SAUCE TO GET RAFFLED OFF AT THE EVENT, ALONG WITH A RECIPE CARD AND SOME F&H CO. SWAG!  STAY SAFE, EAT WELL!

GRILLED CHICKEN PARM ALLA VODKA

INGREDIENTS:
1 Large Shallot, thin sliced
2 Garlic Cloves, thin sliced
Pinch of Chili Flakes
1/3 cup of Tito's Vodka
1 - 28 oz. Can of San Marzano Tomatoes, crushed by hand
1/2 cup of Heavy Cream
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 cup of Fresh Basil, torn
Salt, to taste

PROCEDURE:
In a large saute pan over medium heat, add enough olive oil to cover bottom.  Add the shallots and a pinch of salt and saute until translucent.  Add the garlic and chili flake, stirring often, until garlic is light golden brown. 

Add the vodka and cook until almost completely evaporated.

Add the crushed tomatoes, stir often and cook until reduced by about half.  Add the heavy cream, stir and cook just until incorporated.  Remove from heat, taste and adjust seasoning.  Add torn basil.

Spoon over grilled chicken, top with sliced fresh mozzarella.  Broil until cheese is melted.  Garnish with fresh basil and Parmesan cheese.

Posted on August 15, 2017 .

PEACH-GRILLED CORN SALAD

IT'S THE MIDDLE OF JULY AND WE ARE SMACK DAB IN PEACH AND CORN SEASON.  THERE IS NO BETTER TIME FOR PRODUCE AND ANY CHANCE I GET I TRY TO USE SEASONAL INGREDIENTS AT THE FIREHOUSE.  FOR "TACO TUESDAY" I DECIDED TO MAKE A SALSA USING FRESH LOCAL PEACHES AND CORN, WITH SOME PICKLED ONIONS AND FRESH JALAPENOS TO BALANCE IT OUT WITH ACIDITY AND HEAT.  THIS SALSA WOULD BE GREAT OVER FISH, GRILLED PORK TENDERLOIN, FLANK STEAK....PRETTY MUCH ANYTHING THAT NEEDS A FRESH KICK IN THE ASS!

PEACH-GRILLED CORN SALSA

Makes about 2 cups

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 RIPE PEACHES, pitted and chopped
  • 1 SMALL RED ONION, pickled (see recipe below)
  • 1/2-1 JALAPENO, seeded and diced (adjust to liking)
  • 3 EARS OF CORN, grill and cut off kernels 
  • 2 LIMES, zest and juice
  • 1/2 BUNCH OF CILANTRO, rough chopped
  • 1 TBS. EVOO
  • SALT, to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, taste and adjust seasoning

Pickled Red Onions

  • ½ Cup of Cider Vinegar
  • 1 Tbs. Sugar
  • 1 Tbs. Salt
  • 1 Cup of Water
  • 1 Red Onion, sliced thin

Dissolve sugar and salt in water and vinegar.  Place onions in a jar or bowl, cover with pickling liquid and place in fridge until cool.

 

 

Posted on July 18, 2017 and filed under DINNER, LUNCH, SIDE.

TACO TIME!

WHEN DAVE FROM THE BATTALION TV ASKED IF I WAS INTERESTED IN GETTING TOGETHER AT FDIC WITH MY BUDDIES CHIEF MILLER AND PIP FROM 555 FITNESS TO FILM AT A FIRE DEPARTMENT, I DIDN'T EVEN HAVE TO THINK ABOUT IT.  AND THEN "FIRE. FITNESS. FOOD" WAS BORN....
THE OBJECTIVE WAS SIMPLE.  GO TO A LOCAL DEPARTMENT IN INDY AND SHOW THEM THE IMPORTANCE OF FUNCTIONAL FITNESS AND HEALTHY EATING IN THE FIRE SERVICE....ALL WHILE HAVING A GREAT TIME!
I DECIDED ON HEALTHY TACOS USING INGREDIENTS THEY MAY NOT NORMALLY USE IN THE KITCHEN.  TACOS ARE A GREAT WAY TO INTRODUCE HEALTHY INGREDIENTS BECAUSE IT IS A RELATABLE DISH IN THE FIREHOUSE AND ALLOWS YOU THE ABILITY TO TAILOR IT INDIVIDUAL TASTES.  CHECK OUT THE RECIPES I MADE AT DECATUR TOWNSHIP FIRE DEPARTMENT BELOW!
 TOP: Shrimp and Chorizo BOTTOM: Chicken with Grilled Pineapple 

TOP: Shrimp and Chorizo BOTTOM: Chicken with Grilled Pineapple 

Shrimp Chorizo Tacos with Cotija Cheese

Ingredients:

  • 1 Lb. Shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 Lb. Chorizo, casing removed
  • ½ Onion, diced
  • 2 Garlic, cloves
  • ½ Cup Mint, chopped
  • 4 Limes, cut 2 into wedges for garnish
  • 10 oz. Package of Cotija Cheese
  • 1 Jalapeno, sliced
  • 1 Bunch of Cilantro, chopped
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt
  • Package of corn tortillas, lightly grilled or warmed in oven, covered until ready to serve.

Procedure:

In a deep dish or bowl, combine shrimp with zest and juice from 2 limes, chopped mint, a pinch of salt and drizzle of olive oil.  Set aside in refrigerator while preparing the rest of the dish.

In a large saute pan, add a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat.  Add the chorizo, brown and cook through while breaking up the meat.  When chorizo is cooked through, add the garlic and onion and cook until onion is translucent.  Add the shrimp to the pan, stir and cook until pink.  Remove from heat.  Serve with tortillas, cilantro, jalapeno and cotija cheese.

 

Chicken with Grilled Pineapple Tacos with Pickled Red Onions

Ingredients:

  • 1 Lb. Chicken Breast
  • 1 Tsp. Cumin
  • 1 Tsp. Chile Powder
  • 1 Tsp. Paprika
  • 1 Tsp. Garlic Powder
  • 1 Tsp. Salt
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Grilled Pineapple Salsa

  • 1 Pineapple, trimmed and cut into slices
  • 2 Tbs. Chile Powder
  • 1 Jalapeno
  • 2 Limes
  • 1 Bunch of Cilantro, chopped
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pickled Red Onions, recipe follows
  • 10 oz. Package of Cotija Cheese
  • Package of Corn Tortillas, grilled or warmed through in the oven, covered until ready to serve.

Procedure:

In a large bowl, combine all the spices and oil.  Stir to combine and add the chicken.  Marinate 1-2 hours.

Meanwhile, light a grill to medium heat.  Coat the pineapple lightly in oil, salt and chile powder.  Grill pineapple, turning frequently until caramelized.  While the pineapple is cooking, grill the jalapenos until charred.  Remove the jalapeno, seed and chop.  Remove the pineapple and chop.  In a bowl combine, the pineapple, jalapeno, juice and zest of limes, ½ of the cilantro.  Season with salt to taste.

Grill the chicken until cooked through, remove and chop.

Assemble tacos with the chicken, pineapple salsa, pickled red onion, cilantro and Cotija cheese

Pickled Red Onions

  • ½ Cup of Cider Vinegar
  • 1 Tbs. Sugar
  • 1 Tbs. Salt
  • 1 Cup of Water
  • 1 Red Onion, sliced thin

Combine all ingredients except the onion in a saucepan.  Over low heat, stir just to dissolve the sugar and salt.  Pour over onions in a jar or glass bowl.  Refrigerate until cool.  These can be kept in fridge up to 2 weeks.

Posted on July 10, 2017 and filed under LUNCH, DINNER.

Breakfast Stuffed Bread Cups

THIS FIREHOUSE FRIENDLY RECIPE COMES FROM TJ AND JEFF OF NORTH PLAINSFIELD FD IN NEW JERSEY, WHICH WAS THE WINNING DISH IN THE RECENT FORK AND HOSE CO. / THE FARMER'S HEN FIRE DEPARTMENT EGG COOK-OFF!  THIS DISH IS GREAT BECAUSE NOT ONLY IS IT UNIQUE, IT TASTES GREAT TOO!  FEEL FREE TO SUBSTITUTE ANYTHING YOU WOULD LIKE, MAYBE BREAKFAST SAUSAGE INSTEAD OF BACON....OR HOW ABOUT BOTH!  THE BREAD THEY USED WAS SEMOLINA BUT YOU COULD EASILY USE ANY OTHER TYPE OF BREAD.  MAKE IT A LITTLE HEALTHIER IF YOU WANT TOO.  HOW ABOUT AN ALL VEGGIE VERSION?! 

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BREAKFAST STUFFED BREAD CUPS

Serves 4-6

INGREDIENTS:

1 Loaf of Semolina Bread 

1 Dz. Eggs, whisked

2 Bell Peppers, seeded and chopped

1 Onion, peeled and chopped

12 oz. Package of Bacon, chopped

16 oz. Shredded Cheese (any cheese will work great)

Salt/Pepper to taste

PROCEDURE:

Preheat oven to 350*

Cut bread into 2" slices.  Scoop/cut out middle of bread.  Place slices on a large baking sheet (greased or spray with nonstick).

Cook chopped bacon in a skillet.  Remove to a paper towel lined plate, reserving bacon fat in skillet.

Over medium heat add the onions and peppers to the bacon fat.  Cook until the onions are translucent.  Remove from heat.  Reserving a little of the mixture to garnish.

In a large bowl. combine the whisked eggs and half of the cheese.  Stir to combine and then fill the slices of bread with the egg/cheese mix.  Some egg will leak out of the bottom, don't worry it will be fine.  Sprinkle the cooked bacon in to the eggs, followed by the pepper/onion mixture.

Place the baking sheet in the oven on the middle rack.  Cook until eggs are set, about 15-20 minutes. Top with remaining cheese and place back in oven or under broiler to melt cheese.  Garnish with reserved pepper/onions.

Posted on June 18, 2017 and filed under BACON, BREAKFAST.

GRILLED SWEET POTATO FRIES

1st Responder News is a nationwide source for all things fire and EMS, with both print and digital formats.  When they asked if I would be interested in contributing monthly with recipes and stories from the firehouse kitchen, I knew it would be a great opportunity.  Now I get to share more firehouse friendly dishes as well as tips I have learned since graduating culinary school and working in a professional kitchen!  
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June's column was a little intro with my "firehouse famous" Grilled Sweet Potato Fries.  Check it out here!  And in case you want to make these addicting fries I have the recipe below which was featured in Men's Health!..

GRILLED SWEET POTATO FRIES

 Photo Credit: Guy Gourmet/Men's Health Mag

Photo Credit: Guy Gourmet/Men's Health Mag

INGREDIENTS:

4 small sweet potatoes (or 2 large ones), cut into ½” wedges
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp chile powder
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp cilantro

PROCEDURE:

1. Pre-heat your grill to medium heat. In a large bowl, toss the potato wedge with the olive oil, chile powder, and salt.


2. Grill the potato wedges over direct heat until crispy on the outside and tender enough that a fork slides easily into the center, 6 to 8 minutes, flipping halfway through. Transfer the fries back to the large bowl, drizzle with the syrup, and toss to coat. Top with cilantro and serve. Makes 4 servings.

Posted on June 17, 2017 and filed under SIDE.

UMAMI ONIONS

 

UMAMI.... WHAT IS IT YOU ASK?  WELL, LET'S START BY SAYING IF YOU ENJOY DELICIOUS FOOD THEN YOU ENJOY "UMAMI".  THIS WORD IS POPPING UP MORE AND MORE IN CULINARY CONVERSATION AND FOR GOOD REASON.  "UMAMI", JAPANESE FOR SAVORINESS, IS CONSIDERED TO BE THE FIFTH BASIC TASTE RIGHT ALONGSIDE SWEET, SOUR, SALTY AND BITTER.  A JAPANESE SCIENTIST DISCOVERED THAT IT WAS MOLECULAR COMPOUNDS FOUND IN GLUTAMIC ACID WERE THE CAUSE OF THIS DELICIOUSNESS.  THESE FLAVORS ARE FOUND IN MANY ROASTED, FERMENTED AND COOKED FOODS SUCH AS ROASTED TOMATOES, ANCHOVIES, MUSHROOMS, SOY SAUCE, SEARED BEEF AND EVEN SEAWEED.....YUP SEAWEED.  AFTER ALL, IT WAS A BOWL OF DASHI, A JAPANESE BROTH FLAVORED WITH SEAWEED, THAT THE SCIENTIST WAS EATING WHEN HE MADE THE DISCOVERY.  
OK, NOW ON TO THE ONIONS!  I MADE THESE ONIONS TO GO WITH MY "FRENCH ONION SOUP" BURGERS WHICH ARE A HUUUUUGEE HIT AT THE FIREHOUSE.  I WANTED TO RECREATE THOSE FAMILIAR DEEP FLAVORS FOUND IN A BOWL OF SOUP, WITHOUT ACTUALLY HAVING TO MAKE A BOWL OF SOUP.  AND WHAT ENDED UP HAPPENING WAS SOMEWHAT BY ACCIDENT.  ALL THE INGREDIENTS I WAS USING WERE PACKED WITH UMAMI THUS MAKING THESE ONIONS RIDICULOUSLY GOOD.  THESE THINGS ARE GREAT ON A BURGER BUT WOULD BE JUST AS GOOD ON A NICELY SEARED STEAK, MAYBE OVER SOME PORK CHOPS.  HELL, EVEN SOME ROASTED BROCCOLI OR CAULIFLOWER WOULD PAIR WELL WITH THEM.  
NOW AS FAR AS A RECIPE GOES, WELL I HONESTLY DON'T HAVE ONE.  THIS DISH REALLY REQUIRES YOUR JUDGEMENT SO TASTE TASTE TASTE!  USE THIS AS A GUIDELINE AND SOON ENOUGH YOU WILL HAVE SOME ADDICTING ONIONS THAT EVERYONE WILL LOVE.  ALSO KEEP IN MIND THAT ONIONS COOK DOWN ALOT SO MAKE MORE THAN YOU THINK YOU NEED.
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UMAMI ONIONS

INGREDIENTS:

SWEET YELLOW ONIONS, sliced thin

FISH SAUCE (Not required but definitely makes a difference, use sparingly as this is potent stuff)

SOY SAUCE

WORCESTERSHIRE SAUCE

WHOLE-GRAIN MUSTARD (Sub Dijon or Spicy Brown)

BEEF STOCK (Low Sodium)

BALSAMIC VINEGAR

OLIVE OIL

 

PROCEDURE:

  • Heat just enough olive oil to cover bottom of saute pan over low heat.
  • Add the sliced onions to the pan, cook until just translucent, stirring frequently.
  • Add a dash of the fish sauce, soy sauce and Worcestershire.
  • Add a small spoonful of mustard.
  • Add enough beef stock to just cover the onions, bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer.
  • When all the liquid has almost reduced fully, add more beef stock to just cover and reduce again till almost dry.
  • Add a dash of balsamic vinegar to taste.  You want just a little acidity, it shouldn't taste like salad dressing.
  • These ingredients are fairly salty so you will notice I did not add salt at any point.  If after cooking the onions need salt, add a dash of soy to reinforce the Umami.

*Note:

Feel free to adjust according to your tastes or the dish you will be using this with.  Some fresh thyme is really nice or a little honey to add some sweetness.  Just have fun!

Posted on May 11, 2017 and filed under SIDE.

GUMBO

ONE GREAT THING ABOUT RUNNING F&H CO. IS HOW MANY DIFFERENT TYPES OF REGIONAL DISHES I GET TO SEE EVERY DAY, TOO BAD I CAN'T TASTE ALL OF THEM!  THIS GUMBO RECIPE COMES FROM FIREFIGHTER MARK OF THE SHREVEPORT FD IN LOUISIANA SO YOU KNOW IT'S GOING TO BE GOOD!  FOLLOW HIS INSTAGRAM PAGE @REMARKABLE_FOOD FOR SOME DELICIOUS FOOD INSPIRATION!

GUMBO

Gumbo.jpg

INGREDIENTS:
1 1/2 ONION, chopped
1 CUP CELERY, chopped
1 CUP BELL PEPPER, chopped
1 LB. SMOKED SAUSAGE, sliced
1 LB. COOKED CHICKEN, shredded
3 BAY LEAVES
1/2 CUP GREEN ONION, chopped
PARSLEY, chopped
3 BAY LEAVES
CHICKEN STOCK
CREOLE SEASONING
1 TBS. GUMBO FILE (a natural thickener made from dried ground Sassafras leaves)
1 CUP FLOUR
1 CUP VEGETABLE OIL

PROCEDURE:

  • Combine oil and flour in a large cast iron pan or pot over low-medium heat to make a roux, stirring frequently so as not to burn it.  Cook the roux until it is a deep brown color,  this is very important to creating the rich flavor and color of the dish. 
  • Add the onion, celery and bell pepper to the roux until the onion is translucent.  
  • Add the sausage, chicken and bay leaves, cook 5 minutes.
  • Add enough chicken stock to cover and seasoning, bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer and cook uncovered for 2 hours.
  • Serve and garnish with green onion and parsley.
  • *Suggested to serve over rice
Posted on December 22, 2016 and filed under LUNCH, DINNER.