Mike Judge - FF/EMT
Santa Fe County Fire Department - New Mexico
Did you always like to cook, or was this something that came about after you became a firefighter?
I’ve always liked to cook, in fact it was my first profession. Once I became I firefighter I found out how helpful my previous training in the culinary world was.
Where did you learn to cook and what would you say your style is?
I went to the Art Institute of Seattle’s culinary program, but you really learn the craft by doing, testing, repeating. After working in various kitchens and for some great chefs, I get to do my own thing. My style has definitely evolved, going from Pacific Northwest fine dining seafood to the high desert of New Mexico. I did a stint running the Santa Fe Farmers Market (one of the top 10 in the nation) and that really connected me to the source of the food. I’d say now my style is New American, really looking for what’s good and in season and letting the ingredients show.
Are there any chefs, celebrity or personal, that inspire you in the kitchen?
Absolutely, my old chef in Seattle was phenomenal. So focused on taste, when you were hired he issued you a ruler that would clip to your coat to measure your knife cuts, he was careful about how small things can change the taste of the dish. He instilled that determination to keep challenging yourself, refine it, make it better. My brother-in-law is a great chef as well, on off days when he and I get to hang out we both stay busy in the kitchen. I’ll work on a new bbq sauce and he’ll be making pickles and we start talking about tossing wings in blue cheese powder, or smoking brisket to put in a noodle dish. That’s the fun part about all this for me, connecting with others and finding news ideas and ways. That’s why I love Fork & Hose, great to get ideas and inspiration from others.
Do you share cooking duties with the rest of your crew, or are you the “designated” chef?
Dinner is our main meal and almost all of the time I’m the designated cook. Occasionally if we have someone who is trusted enough, I’ll take the night off. Some guys are always willing to pitch in and help out, some are just designated eaters and that’s a very good thing.
What would you say the average meal cost and are you required to stay within a certain budget?
We budget $5 per person for dinner. We’re not locked down on that, and especially for birthdays and holidays we go the extra mile to make it special. We usually have leftovers from dinner to carry over for lunch the next day since we work 48/96. I feel very fortunate that my crew appreciates quality, we’re not breaking the bank, but we’re also not buying the cheapest thing possible just to get by.
How do you go about planning a meal, or is it “on the fly” at the market?
Oh man, on the fly is like my worst fear! I can’t do that, it makes me a little anxious just to think about that. I keep a list on my computer of ideas, then I’ll always check the weekly sale flyers for the stores. If anyone has ideas or requests we’ll try and do that too. I try to change it up, keep new ideas coming in, repeat old favorites when it works.
Do you like to follow recipes or add your own twist?
I like to find a good recipe as a base. It is like a starting point, then I start adding my own ideas later.
If you had to cook one dish at the firehouse, what would it be?
The last meal…..I’d have make the famous “meat sauce” a.k.a. buffalo bolognese, which is a crew favorite.
Any cooking “bloopers” or “mishaps” while cooking at the firehouse?
Oddly enough I don’t make breakfast a lot, Being Irish I know my way around a potato, and bacon and sausage are pretty straight forward, so I stay in that realm of a savory breakfast. I decided to step away from the usual one day and make strawberry buttermilk pancakes and it did not go well. Sticky, gluey, just an absolute mess. Unflippable, inedible. They were not salvageable, in any way shape or form, it was frustrating that morning.
And lastly….whats the number one rule for your firehouse kitchen?
There’s hot food now!!
Seriously, come and get it. Our med unit goes first and then everyone else, don’t delay.
LEMON RICOTTA “DONUTS”
Here’s lemon ricotta “donuts” - some might call them fritters, I say call them what you want. This is great for a special morning treat, and pretty easy to execute. The batter will keep in the fridge, so you can make it on the sly the night before then surprise everyone.
2½ cups flour
½ cup sugar
1 heaping tablespoon baking powder
1 pound ricotta
1 teaspoon lemon or vanilla extract
1 tbsp lemon zest
Juice from one lemon
Oil, for frying
Get two bowls out, in one bowl, mix together dry ingredients. In another bowl, mix wet ingredients well to incorporate. Add wet ingredients to dry, and stir to combine. Don't over mix it, goal here is to incorporate everything together, but it up! Batter will keep for 24 hours (maybe more, haven't tried) in fridge.
Using a spoon, drop tablespoon sized amounts of batter into preheated oil in dutch oven or fryer. Remember the key to frying is proper temperature and maintaining that proper temp.
Allow to fry until crisp and golden brown on outside. Inside should be moist and cake like. Remove and drain on paper towel. Apply glaze while warm.
1 cup powdered sugar
½ cup lemon juice
Lemon zest (to taste)
Whisk all ingredients to combine, spoon over donuts.