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Pumpkin Pancake

Pumpkin Pancakes Promo Pic.jpg

Sunday’s are fun days at the firehouse. For a very busy station with much to do on the weekdays, the weekends are a sacred event. We break away from the monotony of checklists, computer screens, and training schedules to recharge and fellowship. This break also includes turning away from salads for breakfast and fish for dinner up to and including welcomed comfort food. Enter pumpkin pancakes.

 

Pumpkin has become synonymous with fall, my favorite time of the year, but almost to the point of absurdity. I don’t think there is a thing that Starbucks won’t add pumpkin too these days. Despite this craze, I still wanted to celebrate the flavors that inspire cooler days, sleepy Sunday mornings, and football. What better vehicle to use than pancakes?

 

A few after the fire critiques: The pumpkin doesn’t have to be reduced in a pinch; it just helps rid the batter of excess water. I bloomed the spices in hot oil, browned butter here, to awaken the essential oils thus increasing their impact and I recommend this for all ground spices. Lastly, I also added the spices to some syrup to continue the spiced theme. If you truly love your crew, whip the butter with the spices too.

 

Fuel

 

Pumpkin Puree (1 Can)

Buttermilk (2½ Cups)

AP Flour (2 Cups)

Tbsp. Sugar (3 Tbsp.)

Baking Powder (2 tsp.)

Baking Soda (1½ tsp.)

Salt (1½ tsp.)

Cinnamon (2 tsp.)

All Spice (¼ tsp.)

Nutmeg (¼ tsp.)

Ground Ginger (¼ tsp.)

Butter (4 Tbsp.)

Eggs (2)

 

Tools

 

Griddle

Sauté Pan

Various Bowls

Spatula

Whisk

 

Tactics

 

Place the sauté pan over medium heat and place the butter in and melt till slightly browned, 5-6 minutes. Place the cinnamon, all spice, nutmeg, and ginger in the butter and bloom for 30 seconds. Add the pumpkin puree and mix till combined. Cook stirring often until slightly reduced and darkened, 8-10 minutes. Remove to another bowl and reserve to cool.

 

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, place the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in and mix till combined.

 

In another large bowl, combine the pumpkin puree and eggs and mix till creamy. Add the buttermilk and mix to combine. Add the pumpkin mixture to the flour and mix gently until just brought together. Do not overwork the batter. Let it rest for 5-10 minutes or while the griddle warms up to 350 because you already set it to 350 ;) Add a dollop of neutral oil to the griddle and using a paper towel, cover the entire griddle with the oil. Wipe off the excess. Using a ⅓ measuring cup, pour the batter to form 6 pancakes at a time. Cook until small bubbles start to appear or the bottom begins to firm up, 3-4 minutes. Yes, you can use a spatula to take a peek; these aren’t hard rules, just guidelines. Flip and continue to cook until done, another 2-3 minutes. Use a knife or toothpick to pierce the center of the pancakes to ensure they are done if you are unsure. Stack in a single layer on a sheet pan covered with a towel in a slightly warmed oven until ready to serve. Top with a pad of butter, some spiced syrup, and indulge!

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Semi-Frozen Blueberry Pie

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After watching my lads power through 8 hours of pump training in the unrelenting southern sun, I contemplated breaking our weekday code of saving desserts for the weekend so we can keep our current beach bods looking slim. But alas, I am a sucker for quick, delicious desserts and rewarding my crew for a job well done. Enter my take on a semi-frozen blueberry pie.

 

With summer reaching an end soon, blueberries are thankfully still in peak season and thus readily available and inexpensive. These pearl sized gems of tart and blue make me think of baked buckles, fluffy pancakes, and humble pies, so with this in mind I wanted to recreate a blueberry pie fit for summer.

 

Imagine if you will, splitting the middle between a semifreddo and frozen yogurt and you’ll land at this semi-frozen delight. It uses very little in the way of ingredients and takes but a few active minutes in making, which appealed to my sore, tired body. A handful of ingredients, a power tool, and many smiling faces, this frozen pie will make your end of summer.

 

A few after the fire critiques: Blueberries were the call here but I have used plenty of other fruits in the past. Consider strawberries, mangos, pineapple, raspberries, etc. I used Turbinado sugar but regular sugar will do fine. The spices I’ve listed will do the job of bringing America to your kitchen table; however, consider adding ground ginger and cardamom as well.

 

Fuel

 

Frozen Soft Serve

 

Frozen Blueberries (1½ Cups)

Sweetened Condensed Milk (¾ Cup)

Lemon Juice (from one lemon)

Lemon Zest (from half a lemon)

Salt (½ tsp.)

 

Crumble

 

Flour (1 Cup)

Sugar (¼ Cup, Turbinado preferred)

Brown Sugar (¼ Cup)

Butter (¾ Cup)

Lemon Zest (from half a lemon)

Salt (½ tsp.)

Cinnamon (½ tsp.)

All Spice (¼ tsp.)

Nutmeg (¼ tsp.)

 

Tools

 

Food Processor

Glass or Metal Loaf Pan (or similar)

Small Sauté or Cast Iron Pan

Baking Sheet

 

Tactics

 

Crumble

 

Pre-heat oven to 350°F.

 

Heat pan over medium heat and add butter.  Melt until lightly browned and nutty, 10-12 minutes, remove and reserve.  In the food processor, add the flour, sugar, brown sugar, lemon zest, cinnamon, all spice, nutmeg, and salt and pulse to combine. Turn food processor on and slowly stream in browned butter until fully combined. Place the crumble onto the baking sheet and bake in the center of the oven for 10-12 minutes or until slightly browned. Let cool and place in the fridge to reserve.

 

Frozen Soft-Serve

 

In the food processor, pulse the blueberries with the sweetened condensed milk, lemon juice, lemon zest, and salt until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes; scrape down the side of the bowl as needed. Serve soft or transfer to a metal baking pan, cover and freeze until just firm. Serve immediately or freeze until hard and reserve. Place in fridge to slowly thaw for 30 minutes prior to serving. Top with crumble and indulge!

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Agua Fresca de Sandía

Agua Fresca Promo Pic.jpg

With the summer heat now in full swing and shadows being sought to shelter in place as to avoid melting, I often see people reaching towards their glasses to help them cool down. With that in mind, I was inspired to offer an inexpensive but refreshing beverage that takes advantage of the summer fruit season. So I would like to proudly present a watermelon-championed elixir of Latin inspiration, Agua Fresca de Sandía.

 

Agua Fresca, otherwise known as fresh water in Spanish, is a combination of fruit and water just so slightly sweetened and chilled with ice. This is a traditional version using a very popular combination of watermelon and lime but there are many variations to play with (on a side note, Horchata could be considered a Agua Fresca, another delicious offering). Any seasonal fruit will do but this is a great one to start with as we hide from the sun.

 

A few after fire critiques: watermelon-lime is one of my favorites but consider using any mix of berries or citrus together. To build upon this flavor combination, next time you slice up a watermelon, rub a lime all over it and top with a sprinkle of salt, you’re welcome. Lastly, depending on your desired level of sweetness, scale back or add more to get to that level, trust your taste buds.

 

Fuel

 

Watermelon (5 Cups, scooped)

Lime Juice (¼ Cup or about 2 limes)

Sugar (¼ Cup)

Mint (¼ Cup, fresh leaves, packed)

Lime (thinly sliced)

Mint Sprigs (for garnish)

 

Tools

 

Blender

Small Pot

Fine Mesh Sieve

 

Tactics

 

Using the blunt end of a chef’s knife, gently bruise the mint leaves. Combine mint leaves, sugar, and ¼ cup water in a small pot. Over medium-high heat, stir until it boils and sugar has dissolved. Let it cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

 

Strain syrup into the blender ensuring to discard mint leaves. Add watermelon and lime juice and blend until very smooth. Using a fine-mesh sieve and spoon, strain into a pitcher or large thermos, and discard solids. Add 2 cups water and stir well to combine. Serve with mint sprigs and lime slices, indulge!

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Green Goddess Dressing

Green Goddess Dressing Promo Pic.jpg

Every year I travel back to my homeland in California and take what we’ve dubbed the annual McKay’s male camping trip up to the Sierras to remember again what it is to connect with the land.   Grandpa, dads, and sons all get together to make fire, hike up to waterfalls, and cook food like our ancestors.  This year we returned again to the most famous valley in the world, Yosemite.  Per usual, I was the culinary coordinator and tackled the menu inspired by my home state and all she has to offer. 

 

When most think of CA they think of fresh produce, so my recent trip was driven by the mantra of healthy and green.  I wanted to tap into this with my most recipe offering and develop a quick and easy salad dressing celebrating all things California.  What I came up with was my version of the Green Goddess Dressing, equal parts herbaceous and balanced, this is the ultimate dressing designed to top anything needing a California kick.

 

            To many, the word grassy means grassy, healthy, and tasteless.  This is anything but.  Make no mistake; there are notes of green through the watercress, parsley, tarragon, and chives, all providing their unique flavor profile and ‘grassiness’.  However, acid is added via the champagne vinegar, fat from the canola oil, emulsion from the mayonnaise, bite from the garlic, sweetness from the honey, and seasoning from the S&P.  All these ingredients help to round out the dressing so that the many enjoy it instead of the few Californians who only eat veggies.  Remember, a dressing should be a multipurpose tool, applicable to any dish to accent it.  Think a wedge of lettuce, greens to top a sandwich, or a dressing for a grain bowl, this dressing should give you some solid California miles, indulge!

 

A few after the fire critiques: I ask for watercress but spinach will do as a substitute.  Tarragon is the star in this recipe but cilantro will hold it’s water if you can’t find it. Mayonnaise is doing all the heavy lifting but sour cream or cream can be used in its place to help save calories. Know that you give up on emulsion factor though (FYI, fat = emulsion).   Champagne vinegar can be substituted with sherry or tarragon vinegar as we are looking for a delicate vinegar so the herbs can star.

 

Fuel:

 

Parsley (1 Cup)

Watercress or Spinach (1 Cup, stemmed)

Chives (3 Tbsp.)

Tarragon (2 Tbsps., leaves only)

Anchovy Fillets (2)

Garlic (1 clove, minced)

Lemon Juice (3 Tbsp. or one large lemon)

Champagne Vinegar (1 Tbss. + 1 tsp.)

Canola Oil (½ Cup)

Mayonnaise (½ Cup)

Honey (2 tsps.)

 

Tools:

 

Food Processor or Blender

 

Tactics:

 

Place all ingredients into the food processor or blender sans the mayonnaise and seasoning and mix until combined, 2 minutes, making sure to scrape the ingredients down half way through.  Add the mayonnaise, salt, and pepper and pulse until combined. Indulge!

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Salt-Baked Fish

Salt-Baked Fish Promo Pic.jpg

With a recent trip to the farmer’s market nearing an end, I found myself yet again lingering in the fish monger’s section eyeing some fresh Branzino with longing. For some, fish can be a daunting task, what with their delicate nature, the relatively high cost, and the work that can be required to enjoy them. So, I reviewed my techniques to remember the easiest way to cook a whole fish and retain a their subtle flesh so I could reasonably justify the purchase. It was then I remembered salt-baked fish.

 

Nothing could be easier then placing a whole fish in the oven and waiting for it to cook. This technique of creating a encapsulated salt dome (think salt igloo) was created in an effort to steam the fish in it’s own juices thus creating a moist, flavorful flesh while it roasts in the oven. With nothing but salt, egg whites, and water, this crust holds it’s shape such that a few smacks with the back of a large spoon are needed to crack it open. Once you do, the aroma of fish, citrus, and herbs fill the nose as this is a table stopper is placed in front of your crew or family.

 

A few after the fire critiques: I went with Branzino here, but any white flesh fish with tick skin will do. Think bass, red snapper, monkfish, etc., but whatever you chose, ensure your fishmonger removes all the scales for you! I went with lemon and rosemary but feel free to use any complimentary citrus and herbs. Finally, I suggest the use of parchment paper to place under the fish and salt to use as a carry all to move the fish to a cutting board or table.

 

Fuel

 

White Flesh Fish (2-4 lbs)

Salt (Kosher, 3 lbs. box)

Eggs (4, whites only)

Lemon (1, thinly sliced)

Rosemary (2 sprigs, bruised)

Pepper and Salt

 

Tools

 

Baking sheet

Large Bowl

Parchment Paper

 

Tactics

 

Pre-heat the oven to 450°F.

 

Prepare your fish by rinsing it under cold running water then pat dry. Score the skin every 1” from the gills to the tail. Insert the lemon slices and rosemary into the cavity and reserve.

 

Place the salt, egg whites, and ½ cup of water into a large bowl and mix until it resembles wet sand.

 

On the baking sheet, place a piece of parchment paper enough to hang over the sides by 2 inches to create a carryall. Place ½ inch layer of salt to create a bed, place the fish so as to fit comfortably across the baking sheet, cover with salt, and using the backside of a spoon or your hand, shape the salt dome to cover the fish. Place in the center of the oven and cook for 20-30 minutes or until the internal temperature of the fish registers 130°F. Transfer the fish to a cutting board or table, remove the skin and either fillet or lump the flesh being careful to avoid the fish’s small pin bones. Indulge!

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Chipotle Black Bean Dip

Chiptole Black Bean Dip Promo Pic.jpg

Chipotles and beans are a combination that many believe is classic. Be it in a soup, a burrito, or a tostada, the beans creamy earthiness blends well with the subtle smokiness and heat of the chipotles. So why not marry them together for a dip? I bring you Chipotle Black Bean Dip.

 

With black beans and chipotle leading the charge, limes bring the acid, the onions and garlic the comfort, the spices the depth, and the cream the balance. This is a dip ready for many a chip or veggie at any kitchen table.

 

A few after the fire critiques: I actually prefer this dip served reheated the next day (or two) so feel free to make ahead. This is a lime forward dip, so back it down to one lime if you are acid adverse. You can also rinse the beans to have a cleaner taste and less starch. Read the garnish list below as it has been curated for accentuating the inherent flavors of the dip (hint: melt the cheese by topping the dip before placing in the oven, you’re welcome).

 

Inspired by Goran Kosanovic

 

Fuel

 

Can of Black Beans (15 ounce)

Chipotle en Adobo (seeded and minced)

Sour Cream or Crema (1 Tbsp.)

Adobo Sauce (1 Tbsp.)

Onion (½, diced)

Garlic (1 clove, minced)

Limes (2, juiced)

Canola Oil (2 Tbsp.)

Cumin (¼ tsp. ground)

Coriander (¼ tsp. ground)

Salt & Pepper

 

Tools

 

8-10” Steel Skillet  (ovenproof)

Blender

 

Tactics

 

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

 

Add 1 Tbsp. of oil in the skillet and place over medium heat. Add the diced oil and cook until softened, 3 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, and coriander and cook for an additional 30 seconds. Remove from heat and let it cool slightly.

 

Add the onions, half of the beans, lime juice, chipotle, adobo sauce, the remaining oil, a pinch of pepper and salt, and a splash of water and blend until smooth. Transfer to the skillet, stir in the remaining beans, and place in the oven for 15 minutes.

 

Let the dip rest for 5 minutes, mix in sour cream/crema and then garnish with diced tomatoes, cheese, pickled jalapeños, and cilantro. Indulge!

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Hasselback Potatoes

Hasselback Potatoes Promo Pic.jpeg

With many of my crew preparing for the next promotional exam with eyes on moving up in the ranks and spearheading our new wave of leadership, I thought it prudent to offer an alternative to the tried and true steak and potatoes promotional dinner. Make no mistake; there is a time and place for a perfect rib eye and mashed potatoes as a thank you for the support during what can be a busy time for the hopeful. But I wanted to show that you can ‘dress up’ the standard potato in other ways so let me introduce you to the Hasselback Potato.

 

Technique and presentation are on display here as more surface area is created by carefully slicing transverse cuts from tip to tail exposing more tater to take flavor. Some stuff with leaves (sage or bay), cheese, and bacon, but I want these naked so that you can appreciate the craft. Much like upgrading your helmet to leather with a dope shield, it is impressive sight to behold and elevates what is a very humble tuber.

 

A few after the fire critiques: I’ve tried this same recipe with sweet potatoes and butternut squash to great effect so give them a try. Don’t limit yourself to just these particular tubers: carrots, parsnips, rutabagas, etc. are all great options. Topping the potatoes is another fun dive be it maple syrup with Fresno peppers, garlic butter, chipotle crema, or in this case, chimichurri. Lastly, you can consider using the broiler for the last few minutes to get the top extra crunchy.

 

Fuel:

 

Russet Potatoes (4 large)

Butter (2+ Tbsp.)

Pepper and Salt to taste

 

Tools:

 

Baking sheet

Chopsticks (preferably metal)

Pastry or BBQ Brush

 

Tactics:

 

Heat the oven to 425°F. Meanwhile, melt the butter and reserve. Carefully slice ⅛“of the bottoms of the potatoes to create a flat surface. Cut ⅛” cuts across the length of the potatoes from tip to tail ensuring not to cut all the way to the bottom.

Using the brush, lather ½ of the butter on the top of the potatoes attempting to get some in between the cuts. Place the potatoes evenly spaced on a baking sheet spray lathered with oil or butter, sprinkle salt on top, and place in middle of the oven to roast for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and apply the last brushes of butter. Since not all potatoes are created equal, cook in additional 5-minute increments until the desired doneness. Top with additional melted butter or olive oil, add a pinch of salt and pepper, and allow cooling for 5 minutes, then indulge!

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Báhn Mì

Pork Báhn Mì Promo Pic.png

The Báhn Mì, otherwise known loosely as “bread” in Vietnam, is a generic name of a filled bread roll served street side for any of the three major meals of the day (and everything in between). This French-Vietnamese fusion food has taken root here in America, and for good reason. The well-balanced sandwich has a thin-crusted French roll stuffed with grilled pork (or pretty much anything under the sun, literally), spiced mayo, sliced cucumber, pickled carrots and daikon, sliced jalapeno, chopped cilantro…  Shall I continue or are you already sold?

 

The combination of well-seasoned protein (or tofu) coupled with fresh vegetables all hugged by heavenly bread is not new too most, (Eat Fresh?) but this particularly delicious combination most likely will be. And what a shame it hasn’t gotten more exposure otherwise this would’ve found a home (and heavy rotation) into firehouses sooner.

 

A few after the fire critiques: I added a teriyaki sauce to the pork, but because of the brine, it will be plenty flavorful for most so feel free to skip the sauce if you so choose. Also, I went with pork, but it’s not uncommon to use traditional pâté, grilled chicken, shrimp, tofu (always thinking of you too Vegans), meatballs in tomato sauce, sardines, fired eggs, etc., it’s all good. I also decided to use radishes in lieu of the fact that most grocery stores where I live don’t carry daikon (or even know what it is and those that do have their stock sit on the shelf so long it becomes flimsy). Lastly, consider topping with a spicy chili paste of your choice.

 

 

 

Fuel

 

Pork Shoulder or Loin (3-4 lbs.)

French Rolls (6-8)

Carrots (pre-shredded bag or 4-5 medium carrots)

Daikon (1 medium) or Radishes (small bag 20-25)

English Cucumber (De-seeded and sliced)

Jalapeño (thinly sliced)

Cilantro (just the leaves please)

Salt

 

Pork Brine

 

Whole Black Peppercorns  (1 tsp.)

Whole Coriander Seeds (1 tsp.)

Crush Red Pepper Flakes (1 tsp.)

Serrano Chiles (2 minced)

Garlic (2-3 cloves, minced)

Sugar (2 Tbs.)

Salt (1 Tbs.)

 

Fish Aioli

 

Mayo (½ Cup)

Fish Sauce (1 tsp.)

Lemon Juice (1 tsp.)

 

Teriyaki Sauce

 

Brown Sugar  (⅓ cup)

Soy Sauce (⅓ cup)

Honey (1 Tbs.)

Fish Sauce (1 tsp.)

Toasted Sesame Oil (¼ tsp.)

 

Pickling Fluid

 

Rice Wine Vinegar (1 Cup)

Hot Water (1 Cup)

Sugar (2 Tbs.)

Salt (1 Tbs.)

 

Tools

 

Large Deep Pot

Large Deep-Sided Skillet or Cast Iron Pan

Baking Sheet

Small Skillet

Various Bowls

Mandolin (if possible, you’ll want it)

Mortar & Pestle

Colander

Cooking Spray

 

Tactics

 

Teriyaki Pork

 

In a skillet over medium heat, add the peppercorn, coriander and crushed red pepper and, toss frequently to avoid burning, toast till aromatic, 3-5 minutes. Place them in a mortar & pestle along with the Serrano chilies, garlic and a pinch of salt. Ground until a paste has been formed. In a large pot or bowl, place the paste and 2 cups of hot water and mix till combine. Add ice cubes and cold water and mix till the cubes have melted and the water is cool. Add the pork (ensuring there is enough brine to cover) and then refrigerate a minimum of 4 hours (or up to over night).

 

Pre-heat the oven to 350°F. Remove the pork, wash over running water then pat dry with paper towels. Spray the baking sheet with cooking spray, place the pork in the middle, season with salt and then roast in the oven for 20 minutes per pound. Remove when the internal temp registers 145°F (we’ll be cooking it again later). Let it rest for 15-20 minutes then thinly slice into bite size strips.

 

In a large deep-sided pan over medium-high heat, add the soy sauce, brown sugar, honey, fish sauce, toasted sesame sauce and water (1 Tbs.) and bring to a low, simmering boil. Reduce by about half and thickened. Add the pork, toss to coat and raise the heat to high. Sear the meat till the sauce has slightly caramelized (3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and reserve.

 

Pickled Veggies

 

Using either a mandolin or knife, cut the carrots and daikon/radishes into julienned slices.  Place the veggies into a colander, aggressively salt (2-3 tbs.) while tossing to coat and allow to sit for 30 minutes. Rinse under running cold water until the salt has been removed.

 

Meanwhile, add the sugar, salt and hot water in a bowl and mix till the crystals dissolve. Add the rice wine vinegar and mix. Place the veggies in and ensure it covers. Allow it to cool then refrigerate and reserve.

 

Fish Aioli

 

Place the mayo, fish sauce and lemon juice into a small bowl and mix till combined. Refrigerate and reserve.

 

To Assemble The Báhn Mì

 

Slice the rolls lengthwise, apply a lathering of the aioli, and layer the pork, cucumber, pickled veggies, jalapeño and cilantro. Place on the baking sheet and toss in the still warm oven and toast for 2 minutes until warmed. Serve immediately. DONE.

 

 

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Thai Coconut Chicken Soup

Thai Coconut Chicken Soup Promo Pic.jpg

Serves 4

 

With the wintery conditions starting to build this time of year, we inevitably start to crave meals that warm us from the inside. After running up and down the cold concrete of the interstate getting whipped around by zooming cars and trucks, nothing warms the fingers and toes like a hot soup. With that, I wanted to share an inspired version of Thai Coconut Chicken Soup that has been a family staple for many years.

 

With that, I wanted to introduce a rich, clean broth with salty, sweet, and sour notes all highlighted by red curry paste.  This traditional paste combines many of the flavors that the Thai region has to offer: lemongrass, fresh and dried red peppers, galangal /ginger, shallots, cilantro, lime leaves, coriander seeds, and peppercorn. Without a well stock Asian market near you to collect all of theses ingredients, this curry paste is a great alternative and available at most grocery stores in their International section.

 

A few after the fire critiques: Fish sauce is something I often use for its action packed umami but do yourself a favor and don’t smell it, it will put you on the floor. I list Anaheim peppers as optional for a spicy condiment but jalapeńos or Serrano peppers are subtler options. As toppers go, cilantro is the classic choice but consider additional fresh sliced mushrooms, Thai basil and a wedge of lime. Lastly, in Asian markets cilantro and coriander leaves are the same thing so purchase with confidence.

 

This recipe was inspired from America’s Test Kitchen, they are awesome.

 

Fuel

 

Chicken Breasts (2 8-10 ounce, boneless, skinless)

Chicken Broth (4 cups)

Coconut Milk (1 can /13.5 ounces)

Shallot (2, minced)

White Mushrooms (6-8 ounces, trimmed and thinly sliced)

Snow/Snap Peas (6 ounces, strings removed and cut in thirds on the bias)

*Anaheim Pepper (1, sliced)

Cilantro (⅓ bunch, chopped)

Lime Juice (2 Tbsp.)

Thai Red Curry Paste (1 Tbsp.)

Fish Sauce (2 Tbsp.)

Vegetable Oil (1 Tbsp.)

Sugar (2 tsp.)

Pepper & Salt

 

*Optional and spicy

 

Tools

 

Large Sauce Pan

Small Mixing Bowl

Small Plates

 

Tactics

 

Place chicken breast on paper towels, pat dry, and season with pepper and salt. Place on a small plate and let the chicken sit for 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, heat oil in the saucepan over medium-high heat until it begins to shimmer. Sauté the chicken until lightly browned about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove and transfer to a small plate to reserve.

 

Lower the heat to medium and add the shallot to the saucepan and cook until softened, about 2-3 minutes. Add chicken broth, coconut milk, 2 teaspoons of fish sauce, sugar and mix to combine. Add the chicken and any juices to the pan, bring the broth to a simmer, and cook until the chicken hits 160°F, about 8-12 minutes. Note to flip the chicken breasts halfway through. Remove from heat and let the chicken rest in the broth for 1 hour (that is correct, one hour). Remove the chicken breast and using two forks, shred the chicken into bite size pieces. Reserve.

 

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, add the red curry paste, lime juice and remaining fish sauce and mix to combine. Reserve.

 

Return the broth to a simmer, add mushrooms and snow/snap peas and cook until just tender, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and add red curry sauce and shredded chicken and allow them to heat up in broth for 2-3 minutes. Serve immediately topped with cilantro, optional Anaheim peppers, and fresh cracked pepper.  Indulge.

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Chocolate Pistachio Biscotti

I love coffee. Full stop. The smell alone will wake me up and stir all my senses. However, a cruel twist of fate doesn’t allow me to consume it with out paying a terrible price. So whatever vehicle coffee is consumed has to be worthy. Enter Chocolate Pistachio Biscotti.

 

The fire service has been run on it for generations. I can remember my first year tour in Riverside, CA, rushing to the firehouse to make a fresh cup of coffee before the outgoing shift left and my shift began. Even though I couldn’t drink it, I understood the importance it played with tradition and fueling the fellas. These biscotti are a great way to share that coffee.

 

Biscotti, or “twice cooked” in Italian, are oblong shaped cookies perfect for cold or hot beverages. The double exposure to a hot oven makes these keep there texture even after sitting in a hot cup of Joe. Not too sweet with a good distribution of fixings, these are a great holiday gift or cookie for Santa, indulge!

 

A few after the fire critiques: I added the pistachios and semisweet chocolate chips here but feel free to add any nut, dried fruit, or chocolate. All are welcome! I dunked mine in milk but they have been known to pair well with coffee, latte, or hot chocolate so dunk away.

 

Fuel

 

AP Flour (2 Cups)

Baking Powder (1½ tsp.)

Cinnamon (1 tsp. ground)

Salt (1 tsp.)

Unsalted Butter (½ Cup at room temperature)

Light Brown Sugar (½ Cup)

Granulated Sugar (½ Cup)

Instant Espresso or Finely Ground Coffee (1 Tbsp.)

2 Eggs

Pistachios (1 Cup, coarsely chopped)

Semisweet Chocolate Chips (1 Cup)

 

Tools

 

Stand Mixer

Baking Sheets

Wire Rack

Various Bowls

Silpat or Parchment Paper

Fine Mesh Sieve

Serrated Knife

Spatula

 

Tactics

 

Makes about 2 dozen.

 

Preheat oven to 325°F.

 

Using fine mesh sieve, sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt into a large bowl; set aside.

 

Using the mixing bowl on the stand mixer, combine the butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and espresso/coffee. Set the mixer to high-speed and beat until light and fluffy. Mix in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low, add the pistachios and chocolate ships, and mix in. Add flour mixture and mix just until incorporated or flour disappears.

 

Divide the dough in half. Place each half onto a prepared baking sheet. Using lightly floured hands, form each half into a log measuring 3 inches wide and ¾ inch high.

 

Bake until firm to the touch, about 25 minutes (the logs will spread some during the baking, this is normal). Remove the whole logs from the oven and let cool slightly on the baking sheets, about 5-8 minutes.

 

Using a spatula, carefully transfer the logs to a work surface. Using a serrated knife, cut into ½ inch slices thick. Arrange the slices, cut side down, on the baking sheets and bake until the bottoms are brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and turn the slices over. Bake until the bottoms are brown, about 10 minutes longer. Transfer to wire racks to cool. Store in an airtight container at room temperature. Should keep for 2 weeks if they don’t get eaten.

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Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Roasted Brussels Sprouts Promo Pic.jpg

Don’t look now but we all blinked and the holidays are here again. As we all collectively shake our heads and forlorn the passage of time, I repeat but with more vigor and enthusiasm this time, THE HOLIDAYS ARE HERE AGAIN! So while the thought of the upcoming family get-togethers and holiday parties around the corner sink in, I wanted to offer a new spin on a traditional fixture for this time of year to help ease your worry. Let me introduce you to a non-traditional version of Roasted Brussels Sprouts.

 

Often relegated to the forgotten and lonely side tables during the big feasts, Brussels sprouts are one of the miscast vegetables worthy of being at the head table. Being a relative to the likes of broccoli and cabbage can earn you this shame. However, they are flush in nutrients, fiber, and vitamins and when prepared right, offer a sweet, nutty flavor that navigates the sulfurous and bitter reputation that these sprouts have undeservingly inherited. Waffles aren’t the only good things to come from Brussels.

 

With the addition of roasted pumpkin seeds to help reinforce the nuttiness and holiday theme, sesame oil and fish sauce the rich umami, the lime juice the acid, and red pepper flakes the needed heat, this is a non-traditional approach to a forgotten classic. This can be a stand-alone dish or a wonderful accompaniment to a healthy breakfast or a special holiday meal with loved ones, you decide. Happy holidays!

 

A few after the fire critiques: I used lime juice to wake the sprouts up and balance out the dish but feel free to use any vinegar (i.e.- rice wine) as an alternative. I’ve also added Italian sausage, Spanish dried chorizo, or bacon to help usher the meat eaters to the table. Lastly, sometimes I’ll blast the sprouts over the broiler to bring additional char to the leaves, a nice touch.

 

Fuel

 

Brussels sprouts (1 Lbs.)

Pumpkin Seeds (3 Tbsp.)

Olive Oil (3 Tbsp.)

Fish Sauce (¼ tsp.)

Sesame Oil (¼ tsp.)

Red Pepper Flakes (¼-½ tsp.)

Lime Juice (1 tsp)

Pepper & Salt

 

Tools

 

Baking Sheet

Medium Mixing Bowl

Aluminum Foil

 

Tactics

 

Preheat oven to 425°F. Trim ends and any yellow leaves off of Brussels sprouts than slice in half and reserve. In a mixing bowl, add the olive oil, Brussels sprouts, pumpkins seeds, and pepper and salt to taste and toss to combine. Place the Brussels sprouts on the baking sheet cut side down with the pumpkin seeds, cover with aluminum foil, and place in the center of the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to cook for an additional 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, add the sesame oil, fish sauce, lime juice, and red pepper flakes to the bowl and mix to combine. Remove the Brussels sprouts from the oven, place in bowl, and toss to coat. Season with additional pepper and salt if desired and serve warm. Indulge!

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Homemade Ricotta

Many things will bring you joy and satisfaction when you first begin the wonderful journey that is cooking. Creating your first soufflé, nailing the perfect poached egg, baking your own bread, all these rank high and for good reason, as they require perseverance, a level of technique and some skill in the kitchen.

 

Along these lines, making cheese from scratch with nothing more then some dairy from the local grocery store has to measure up to all of the above with one caveat, this recipe is so easy to the point of being laughable. Very little perseverance, technique or skill is needed, so all are welcome to the wonderful world of homemade Ricotta.

 

With nothing more then some milk, cream, vinegar and salt, one can be moments away from the famous Italian cheese. This whey based fresh cheese is reliant on acid, in our case white distilled vinegar, and near boiling heat to unlock its potential and coagulate the protein. Time and some quick labor stirring are all that is left to bring this silky smooth delicacy to your table in under an hour.

 

A few after the fire critiques: Some add lemon juice in replacement of a portion of the vinegar (2 parts lemon to 3 parts vinegar). It’s a nice flavor but can distract from the cheese flavor for some so make both and be your own judge. A drizzle of honey, some cracked pepper, fresh fruit or smoked salmon over some baked bread or crackers is the call here but feel free to stuff into some lasagna or blueberry pancakes. You’ll thank me later.

 

Fuel

 

Whole Milk (7 Cups)

Heavy Cream (1 Cup)

White Distilled Vinegar (5 ounces)

Salt (1 Tbsp.)

 

Tools

 

Medium Heavy-Bottomed Sauce Pan or Dutch Oven

Cheesecloth

Colander

Thermometer (instant preferred)

 

Tactics

 

Dampen the cheesecloth ensuring to remove any excess water, fold in half to form a double layer, and spread in the base of the colander and set aside in the sink. Bring the milk and cream under medium-low heat until it reaches 190°F ensuring to stir frequently to avoid scorching the dairy. Add ½ the vinegar and all the salt and stir for 10 seconds. Remove from the heat, cover the saucepan with a lid, and let sit for 20 minutes. Remove the lid and stir in the remaining vinegar for a few minutes, 2-3. Pour the dairy into the prepared colander and cheesecloth.

 

Let the dairy drain until you achieve the consistence you want, about 15 minutes for soft ricotta, 20-25 minutes for firm and 30 minutes for firm and slightly dry. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to a week. Indulge.

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Smoked Baked Beans

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As my son’s football team season is in full swing now, the best time of the year in my opinion (IMO), my culinary thoughts often turn to slow cooked meals easy for communal feeding. This drives me to the tailgating nirvana AKA- barbeque.  As the title eludes though, we are here to share my recipe for beans and not smoked meat (perhaps another time). However, these are not your average beans; a southern version of smoked baked beans is the call to action for football.

 

Beans are near and dear to my heart as they provide many health benefits for the consumer; protein, fiber, vitamin B, iron, potassium and they are low in fat. I love them in salads, burritos, soups, etc. Agreeably, this particular incarnation gets balanced out with some barbeque themed sauce, but it is for football season after all, we can all stand to live a little.

 

I prefer the process of soaking my beans overnight in a brined solution (3 Tbsp. table salt to 4 quarts water) and then cooking over heat on the stovetop. This prevents more splitting of your beans. However, I understand the desire at the firehouse (and the busy home) to bring something together without as much forethought, so the canned variety will serve you well. Navy beans are the norm but feel free to use whatever beans you have on hand.

 

A few after the fire critiques: I added the meat and bone from a smoked pork rib I recently cooked to enrich the meatiness so add it if you have it. I call for blackstrap molasses (a more condescended punch), muscovado sugar (an unprocessed sugar with strong molasses flavor) and liquid smoke (smoky in water form) and all are readily available in farmers’ markets and select grocery stores so get hunting.

 

Fuel

 

Navy Beans (2 Cups, rinsed)

Bacon (½ lb. ¼“ dice)

Onion (medium, diced)

Ketchup (½ Cup)

Molasses (2 Tbsp., Blackstrap preferred)

Muscovado or Brown Sugar (2 Tbsp., light)

Mustard (1 Tbsp. Yellow Mustard)

Worcestershire Sauce (1 Tbsp.)

Liquid Smoke (1 tsp.)

Salt (1 tsp.)

Pepper (¼ tsp.)

 

 

Tools

 

Slow Cooker

Medium Saucepan (AKA- medium pot)

Medium Sauté Pan

Wooden Spoon

 

Tactics

 

Place slow cooker to LOW and add beans. Add bacon in a cold sauté pan and then slowly sauté over medium heat until rendered, 10-15 minutes. Toss bacon with beans in the slow cooker ensuring to reserve about 1 Tbsp. of bacon grease. Add onions to the sauté pan, salt and cook until translucent, 5-8 minutes ensuring to add 1-2 Tbsp. water to release the fond on the bottom of the sauté pan halfway through. A wooden spoon scrapping the pan here is good for that. Toss onions with bacon and beans in the slow cooker.

 

Meanwhile, place the remaining ingredients in the saucepan and bring to a boil, 4-5 minutes over medium-high heat. Remove from heat and add to beans. Add enough water to just cover beans, stir everything and cook for 2-3 hours covered or until beans are slightly al dente but breaks easy under pressure. Add water should it appear that it needs some. Remove the lid for the last 30 minutes to allow the sauce to thicken. Let cool for a few minutes and serve warm. Indulge!

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Pickled Onions

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When searching for that elusive balance with a dish I often find that I am craving some much needed acid. Be it to cut through a rich meal to refresh my palate or as a final kick to compliment that perfect bite, acid is often considered one of the pillars of cooking.

 

There are many ways to introduce acid into a dish, be it with citrus, vinegar, wine, buttermilk, etc. that exist at your disposal. When first wading into the deep waters that are acid I often advise my fellow cooks to lean into pickling as a great first few steps. This speedy and nearly mistake proof technique is a skill you will use forever more.

 

For most, pickling brings images of cucumbers, pickling salt and boiling glass containers. Though this does produce an excellent product and one worthy of conversation down the road, quick pickling is a tool that many professional chefs use to great aplomb and what we are focusing in on today. This allows for maximum punch in little time often using the fruit or vegetable of your choice. Welcome to the wonderful world of acid.

 

A few after the fire critiques: We went with onions here but you can exchange them for carrots, jalapeños, peaches, jicama or whatever your heart desires. Also, don’t be limited by the flavoring components I listed below. Adding all spice, cinnamon sticks, cumin or coriander seeds are not uncommon, have fun with it.

 

Fuel

 

Red Onion (quartered and thinly sliced)

Jalapeño (deseeded, deveined and minced)

Garlic (2 cloves minced)

Apple Cider Vinegar (½ Cup)

Peppercorns (10-12 whole)

Sugar (2 Tbsp.)

Salt (1 Tbsp.)

 

Tools

 

Small Saucepan

Sealable Plastic Container

 

Tactics

 

Place all fuel and ½ cup water in the saucepan sans the onions over medium-high heat on the stovetop.  Bring to a boil ensuring all the salt and sugar have dissolved then immediately remove from the heat.  Meanwhile, place all the onions in a plastic container and pour the pickling solution over them to cover.  Let it cool on the counter top then place in a refrigerator for no less then 10 minutes. Note that the longer it is pickled the more intense the flavor and spiciness.  These will last for a few weeks if covered. Enjoy cause they’re good.

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Adobo Chicken

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Some say that necessity is the mother of invention. As the sun falls out of the sky during a hungry summer night, I could think of no other famous quote to capture my spirits as I was dropped off at the front doors to the local grocery store to search for sustenance for my crew. With inspiration waning as my energy dipped, I was in search for an epiphany along the perimeter of the produce section when I came across the in season citrus selection and saw the vibrant green of limes.

 

What to pair with the tartness of the lime? I have always wondered how it would pair with a top shelf favorite of mine, chipotles in adobo. This Latin-inspired wonder hits so many of the culinary boxes; spicy, smoky, acidic all in one, it is magic in a can. Chicken thighs were the sale choice du jour that I noticed when entering the store so this was a natural choice for the protein. The addition of a little brown sugar rounds out the bitterness while allowing for a deeper caramelization during cooking. And what this produced was an inexpensive, quick dish worthy of any inventor.

 

A few after the fire critiques: the need to add water is optional but suggested. I like the way the adobo sauce became shiny and tacky like a good Chinese take out dish when adding the water. It also ensures that the clean up of the cast iron won’t take forever (you’re welcome). This can also lean into an Asian direction by adding any Asian inspired condiments (i.e.- soy sauce and honey roasted peanuts). Have fun.

 

Fuel

 

Chicken Thighs (2-3 Lbs., boneless, skinless)

Chipotles in Adobo (1 can)

Cilantro (1 bunch, chopped)

Lime (zested and juiced)

Brown Sugar (1 Tbsp.)

Neutral Oil (1 Tbsp.)

 

Tools

 

Cast Iron Pan, 10 or 12” pan

Blender

Fine Mesh Sieve

Large Bowl

Brush

Zester

 

Tactics

 

Place the chipotles in adobo in the blender and blend until it resembles a sauce, 30 seconds. Place the sieve over the bowl and pour in the adobo sauce. Using a large spoon, push the contents into the bowl ensuring to scrap the underside of the sieve leaving only the solids behind. Zest then juice the lime while also adding the brown sugar into the adobo sauce and mix to combine. Place the chicken into the adobo sauce and marinate in the fridge ensuring to toss 15 minutes in. Remove the chicken from the fridge and season with salt and pepper.

 

Meanwhile, preheat the cast iron pan over medium-high heat on the stovetop. Place a cup of water near the pan and reserve. Cook the chicken in batches ensuring not to crowd the pan, 4-5 minutes, or until the chicken releases from the pan. Use the remaining adobo sauce and brush to apply additional coats to the chicken while cooking. The water should be used whenever the sauce begins to burn by adding 1 Tbsp. at a time. Flip the chicken over and cook an additional 3-5 minutes or until cooked through (165F) and coated on all sides. Remove and let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Top with cilantro and indulge.

        Magic in a can

        Magic in a can

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Strawberry Granita

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In the hallowed pantheon of firehouse food, I can’t think of one more deserving of entry then that of ice cream. Whether the vehicle of a the wide-eyed firefighter hopeful transferring a gallon in the hopes of gleaning information towards getting their dream job to that of the rookie beaming as he passes out the scoops as penance for their first fire, ice cream has sweetened the stomachs of the fire service for generations. But in the current climate of health and nutrition that has swept our profession as we look to improve our lifestyles and extend our careers, we firehouse cooks are ever endeavoring to provide that sweetness but without the calories or glycemic spike.

 

Enter granita, the Italian dessert that exists somewhere between shaved ice and sorbet but with a technique that builds a coarser crystal. It is a name that when done correctly is earned as it resembles small stones of granite. With typically only three ingredients; water, sugar and fruit, this is a healthier alternative to the legend that is ice cream, very refreshing on a warm summer day and as varied as the market’s fruit offerings.

 

A few after the fire critiques: I’ve used strawberries in this recipe as they are in peak season (their most affordable and tasty time) but have made versions with watermelon, mango, kiwi and coconut. Long story short, make whatever you want (I’ll eventually make an almond granita) and be limited by only your imagination.

 

Fuel

 

Strawberries (3 cups, cored and sliced)

Sugar (3 Tbsp.)

Lemon Juice (2 Tbsp.)

Lemon Zest (from one lemon)

Salt (½ tsp.)

 

Tools

 

Blender

Rectangular Dish (13 x 9” being ideal)

Medium Bowl

Fork

 

Tactics

 

In a bowl, place the strawberries, sugar and salt and mix to combine. Let sit at room temperature for an hour or until macerated enough to form syrup. Place the strawberry syrup, lemon juice and ½ cup of water into the blender and blend until smooth. Pour into the dish and top with lemon zest. Take the fork and stir in the lemon zest and then place in the freezer. Freeze for 1½ - 2 hours while stirring the granita every 30 minutes ensuring that you drag from the outside to the center every time. The ice should start to resemble coarse pebbles. You can serve immediately or cover and serve when you are ready, just shave the ice from the top, scoop up, dish out and indulge!

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Shakshuka

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Shakshuka. Say it with me again but properly. SHAK-SHU-KA! What fun. With a name like that, one would expect a bold and powerful dish and I’m proud to say that the final product doesn’t belie the name. This recipe heralds from the lands of North Africa and the Middle East and is as common a dish as falafel within the region and rightfully so. All the right notes are hit; acid, spice, heat… Shakshuka indeed!

 

Peppers and onions stewed in spicy tomatoes with poached eggs is a great way to start the day in any land and a worthy addition to your firehouse. The best part being that this is a one-pan meal and is most at home in a reliable firehouse cast iron pan.

 

A few after the fire critiques: This is traditionally a part of a hearty breakfast dish but feels just as good as a lunch or dinner. Consider serving over a piece of toast (did someone say Naan?!) or over a bed of roasted root vegetables with a nice side salad. Lastly, can’t find any turmeric (you really should search this spice out) or Swiss Chard? Substitute with cumin or spinach respectively. Lastly, I love to sprinkle either Feta or Queso Fresco over the top to add some brine cheese flavor to the meal.

 

Serves 4-6

 

Fuel

 

Eggs (6)

Onions (2 medium, julienned)

Red Pepper (seeded, julienned)

Poblano (red preferred, julienned)

Swiss Chard (3 Cups, ribs removed and chopped)

Cilantro (⅓ bunch chopped)

Crushed Tomatoes (28 ounces)

Garlic (3 cloves minced)

Tomato Paste (1 Tbsp.)

Smoked Paprika (1 tsp.)

Turmeric (1 tsp.)

S&P to taste

Olive Oil (2 Tbsp.)

EVOO

 

Tools

 

Large Sauté/Cast Iron Pan 12” with Lid

 

Tactics

 

Place pan over medium-low heat and heat 1 Tbsp OO. Add onions, pepper and poblano and cook 20 minutes. Make well in middle and add additional 1 Tbsp. OO, paprika, turmeric and garlic to bloom for 30 seconds then mix to combine. Add tomatoes and tomato paste and ½ C water then bring to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes. Add Swiss chard on top and cover with lid and cook 5 minutes. Remove lid and mix in Swiss chard until combined and cook additional 5 minutes. With a large spoon, make 6 shallow wells in the sauce and carefully crack eggs into them, place lid back on and cook till whites are set on the eggs 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat, top with cilantro, season with salt, pepper, splash of EVOO and a pinch of paprika and serve immediately. Indulge!

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Lemon Posset

My calories are sacred to me so I want the biggest bang for my buck when in search of a delicious confection. But I’m also a government employee on the go so I need a cheat day dessert that doesn’t require much time or money. This often leads one toward the simple classics. The trade off is that they often don’t provide much complexity or luxurious feel. I crave the best of both worlds and often won’t settle for less.

 

This led me to a British classic that has made something of a renaissance in recent years, the posset. Think custard crossed with curd, creamy with substance backed by a tart kick. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? You haven’t even heard the best part yet. It takes only three ingredients.

 

High heat is the key to unlocking the door that lies between cream and posset to create something magical. Boiling breaks down the fats in the cream much in the same manner as good vinaigrette does while shaking it in a mason jar forming a thicker texture. One could call it a sweet emulsion.

 

A few after the fire critiques: This is a rich tasting dessert and a little goes a long. If you should feel so inclined to top it like me blueberries and raspberries at the top of the list. I also fancy toasted coconut that provides a textural relief from all that custard. This is also a fantastic short cut for anything asking for a classic lemon curd (AKA- Lemon Tart). In the unlikely event of your not eating them right away, wrap in plastic and they can last a few days in the fridge.

 

Annie Petito inspired this recipe

 

Fuel

 

2 Cups Heavy Cream

⅔ Cup Sugar

3 Lemons/6 Tbsp. Lemon Juice

1 Tbsp. Lemon Zest

*½ tsp. salt (optional but recommended)

 

Tools

 

Medium Saucepan

Fine Mesh Strainer

Large Bowl

Zester

2-Cup Liquid Measuring Container

Ramekins

 

Tactics

 

Add heavy cream, sugar and lemon zest to medium saucepan over medium heat and stir to combine. Bring to a boil stirring frequently until reduced to 2 cups. Don’t be afraid to take it off of the heat to avoid boiling over as this can take 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat and add 6 Tbsp. lemon juice and salt and stir to combine. Let cool for 15-20 minutes or until a skin forms on top. Strain the mixture through the fine mesh strainer into a bowl. Divide into 6 ramekins or equal sized containers (think cereal bowls) and set in fridge uncovered for 3 hours. When ready to serve, let sit out for 10 minutes then top with fruit or nuts. Indulge!

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Lemon Sriracha Fried Chicken

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With spring now knocking on winter’s door, visions of bright colors and flavors start sprinkling into my kitchen often with lemon as the chief culprit. Whether a twist of juice added to some yogurt, zest added to a creamy lemon posset (coming soon!) or whole lemons stuffed in a roasted chicken, it is as diverse as it is tart. With that, I centered a recipe around the flavors of lemon highlighting both it’s sweet and tart attributes with the warmth and spice of Sriracha to formulate a sticky sauce that pairs well with chicken.

 

As a transplanted west-coaster living in the south, I quickly found that I needed to arm myself with a good if not great fried chicken recipe. I have tinkered with many a rendition from tempura style to adding cornflakes and everything in between. One wonders if they will ever really perfect it but this is one that I am proud off.

 

A few after the fire critiques: The first incarnation of the recipe was with wings so know that the sauce is dynamite on them as well. I’d suggest a shorter fry time and then finishing them off under a broiler until just right. Obviously this is a recipe for home with the addition of beer, however, if you want to share this special meal with the lads at the firehouse, simply remove the beer and go full seltzer. Lastly, with all things fried, cooking times vary with the size of the pieces so use a thermometer to remove the guessing game.

 

Fuel:

 

EVOO (2 Tbs.)

Chicken Drumsticks (3-4)

Lemon Curd (½ Cup)

Lemon Juice (2 Tbs.)

Sriracha (1-2 Tbs.)

Rice Flour (½ Cup+ 1 Tbsp.)

AP Flour (½ Cup+ 1Tbsp.)

Cornstarch (2 Tbs. + 1 tsp.)

Garlic (1-2 cloves, minced)

Chives (NOT green onions, minced)

Pepper (freshly ground @ course setting, 3 Tbs.)

Beer (preferably high alcohol ALA malt liquor, ½ Cup)

Seltzer (¾ Cup)

Water (¼ Cup)

Vegetable Oil

Salt

 

Tools:

 

Dutch Oven

Small Saucepan

Various Bowls

Whisk

Oil Thermometer

Wire Rack

Baking Sheet

Paper Towels

 

Tactics:

 

In the saucepan over medium-high heat, heat the EVOO for 30 seconds. Add the garlic and cook for 30-60 seconds or until fragrant. While whisking, add the lemon curd, lemon juice and water and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the Sriracha and cracked pepper, reserve over very low heat.

 

In a bowl, whisk both flours with the cornstarch. Add the seltzer, beer, and salt (1 tsp.), then whisk until smooth (it should resemble pancake batter). Add the chicken to the batter and turn to coat all sides.

 

Heat 2-3 inches worth of the vegetable oil over medium-high heat until it reaches 350°F (use of a thermometer is suggested). Meanwhile, remove the excess batter from the chicken before frying. Then, working in batches, fry the chicken (slowly wave the chicken into the oil tempura style) for 3 minutes, or until it is starting to turn golden on all sides. Salt then drain in a wire rack for 10-15 minutes.

 

Return the oil to 375°F and re-fry the chicken until a deep mahogany color is reached (or an instant read thermometer reaches 165°F in the thickest part), about 5-8 minutes. Momentarily drain the chicken on the rack and salt again.

 

Transfer the lemon mixture into a large bowl. Gently toss the chicken in the lemon curd sauce, sprinkle with the chives, and then serve immediately.

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Italian Bean Soup

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With Spring not to far away though really, we have to admit that it is not here soon enough, it always makes me think of quick soups for the pleasantly cool evenings and whatever is in season to highlight. This is great in theory for when Spring arrives. But what doesn’t have to wait for any season to be highlighted in a recipe, beans.

 

As I was bean adverse while growing up in Southern California (thankfully I changed gears after settling in down in the south), I’ve become aggressive with my experimenting different bean recipes as my exposure to them has grown. Fava, green, black, kidney, I’m infatuated with them all. Which led me to incorporate beans into a quick, relatively healthy soup to share.

 

Though soup was what I leapt to first when ushering in a bean recipe to the fire service, I implore you to consider adding beans to salads as well, either cold or warm. A great source of protein, fiber, carbs, vitamins (vitamin B especially!), minerals, and needed lipids (polyunsaturated fat!), they’re often considered one of the healthiest foods available.

 

A few after the fire critiques: White butter beans from Italy are not an everyday grocery item, I know. Hence, white kidney beans and/or cannellini beans are very complimentary substitutes and are readily available. Feel free to skip pancetta all together to make it vegetarian or add some shredded roast chicken (a favorite at the firehouse). Spinach can be replaced with any dark leafy green, just adjust the cook time to accommodate.

 

Feeds 4-6 comfortably.

 

Tools

 

Dutch Oven

Wooden Spoon

Colander

Various Bowls

 

Fuel

 

Pancetta or Pork Belly (6-8 ounces, cubed)

White Butter/Cannellini/Kidney Beans (2 cans, well rinsed)

Chicken Stock (8 cups)

Spinach (2 cups)

Onion (large, diced)

Carrots (2 large, diced)

Garlic (3 cloves, smashed)

Tomato Paste (2 Tbs.)

Dried Oregano (1 Tbs.)

Smoked Paprika (2 tsp.)

EVOO (1 Tbs.)

S&P too taste

 

Tactics

 

Place the Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the EVOO and heat for 30 seconds. Add the smashed garlic and pancetta and render till browned, 5-8 minutes. Remove and drain in separate bowl lined with paper towel. Carefully remove the smashed garlic pieces. Remove all but 1 Tbs. of the leftover pancetta grease. Add the carrots and onion, season with salt, and cook to soften, 5 minutes. Add the dried oregano and smoked paprika, mix to combine, and continue to cook for an additional 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste, mix to combines and cook for an additional 2 minutes.

 

Pour in the chicken stock and then bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, add the beans, spinach, and pancetta and cook for 10-15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately. Indulge!

 

 

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