Firehouse Chow - No Alarm Necessary

John M. Dabbs

Recipes from the fire hall

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Fire stations are known for hearty meals and excellent food. I've had my share when stationed in city fire halls. The only rotten meals were the ones I had to miss due to a calls. That's life. As a fireman and paramedic in my early days, I gave up firefighting to be a full-time paramedic. I cooked my share of meals as a father at home and working 24 hour shifts.

Here are some of the best recipes I've gathered over the years from working in Bluff City, Blountville, Kingsport, and Holston Valley... and at home. They are hearty and will feed a full engine company, or three teenage boys.

Tools of the trade

Let's start with my favorite working tools:

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  • Cast iron skillet - 12 inch
  • Metal commercial-grade spatulas
  • Silcone scoup-spatulas
  • Silicone spreading spatulas
  • Wooden spoons
  • Large stainless steel wisk
  • 9 x 12 baking dish
  • 8 quart slow cooker (Crock-pot type)
  • Bread pan (non-stick)
  • Non-stick frying pan (6")
  • Non-stick sauce pan (2 qt)
  • Pyrex measuring cup
  • Plastic measuring cup set
  • Stainless steel measuring spoon set
  • Stainless steel mixing bowls (nesting type)
  • Stainless box-grater
  • Chef's Knife
  • Paring Knife
  • Glass mixing bowl (1 gal)

With these basic tools you can make most any meal you want. I add the measuring spoons and cups along with the mixing bowls for "good measure". I thought someone may actually want to oufit their bachelor/bachelorette kitchen and need a minor bit of guidance.

Getting started

Most of the time, you can make do with what you have - just be creative. This is especially true for cutlery and cookware. When I was in college I made do with an electric skillet, toaster oven, and coffee pot. I made breakfast, philly cheesesteaks, biscuits, pizza, hotdogs... all the staples a college guy would want - back to the story.

Barbecue Porkchops

Traditional

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There are two ways to make this meal. If you have plenty of time to watch them cook and a grill... heat your barbecue grill and clean throw some fresh porkchops on the grill. Cook with the lid on at a medium heat. Once they are browned on both sides and "crisping" on the down-side, flip them over and coat the cooked side with your favorite barbecue sauce. Cook again with the lid on until the the bottom is cooked (it should take 1/2 the time as the first side).

Should you want to make your own sauce, in Northeast Tennessee, I start with a cup of ketchup, add 2 tablespoons yellow mustard, 1 tablespoon of worchestershire sauce, 1 teaspoon of paprika, and 1 teaspoon of onion powder. Stirring this together, it's usually enough to coat at least 10 porchops. I try not to have a lot of waste.

Set it and forget it

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Working out of ambulance or engine, you never when you'll have time to eat or cook. Using this method, the meals are done in the evening. We would eat when time and calls allowed us to return to the station. This was sometimes late at night, but better than stopping for fast food.

Take a pack of fresh porkchops, enough for at least two per person. Put them in a slow cooker set on medium heat in the morning. Add 1 cup water, and stir in 1-1/2 to 2 cups of your favorite barbecue sauce. Put the lid on and they'll be ready to eat in about 8 hours.

Options

Keep in mind this works well with roasts too. A nice beef or pork roast would turn out very well cooked all day - pull it apart and serve on buns if you like. Some people like to add coleslaw when eating it on a bun.

Sides

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Serve healthy sides with the meat. Opt for a salad mix with a few tomatoes, olives, cucumbers and a bit of dressing. Green beans also go well, and if you used canned beans you can cook them in the microwave in about three minutes. If you'll add a few brown and serve rolls you're ready to go.

Chili

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Now this isn't chili-beans. If you want to make chili-beans, stir in some canned kidney beans -after you rinse them in fresh water. If you make a big enough batch, leftovers are easily transformed into excellent spaghetti sauce. I'll get to that recipe next.

You'll want to brown some ground chuck in a skillet. Use 1/2 pound per person (minimum). I normally start with two pounds of ground chuck. I use chuck because it has enough fat to add to the taste and enough meat keep it stable. If your well off, add a few pounds of beef tips for texture. Pour off most of the fat and dump it into your trusty slow-cooker. Add two large cans of diced tomatoes (juice and all), 1 small can of tomato paste, and a half-pound of mushrooms (sliced or chunked). Stir this together and add four cloves of minced garlic, two teaspoons of salt and one teaspoon of black pepper. Stir again and add two medium onions - diced, two tablespoons of chili powder, and two tablespoons of paprika.

Stir all ingredients until they are distributed fairly evenly, cover and cook on low 4-8 hours. If the chili is too thin for you, mix 1 teaspoon cornstarch in a cup of tap water until disolved. Sir into the chili mix and cook another hour.

Serve with cornbread, or your favorite bread and a tossed salad. For dessert, you should consider vanilla icecream with a chocolate chip cookie (baked or just heated in the microwave).

Chili-Spaghetti

Take any chili leftovers (I hope you didn't contaminate them with beans) and see if you have enough sauce for 1 cup per person. If not, you may have to pad the mix with more browned hamburger meat and a little tomato sauce.

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Warm the leftover chili in a pot, or use the slow-cooker if you have. Start on low in the morning or medium/high closer to when you're eating. Add one 10 ounce can of tomato sauce, two cloves of garlic, and two tablespoons of oregano. If you have it, add a couple bay leaves, but fish them out before eating.

Cook the spaghetti noodles for 10 minutes at a rolling boil and drain. Serve with the sauce you've made and add a bit of parmesean. As always, serve with a salad and maybe some green beans. A nice peice of cake would be a good dessert with this, with or without icecream.

Breakfast Casserole

This one is good for those doing a ketogenic diet. It's good any time of day. I like to start with cooked sausage patties and bacon crumbles. You may want to add sausage crumbles. The choice is yours... and if you're not doing keto - you can add finely shredded potatoes in layers.

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Take a large baking dish and grease with coconut oil. Add a fine layer of mixed shredded cheese (I like to use the Mexican mix), and add a layer of sausage patties. In a large bowl, scramble 12-18 eggs. Pour a layer of the scrambled eggs over the sausage patties until just covered. Add bacon crumbles and another thin layer of shredded cheese. Repeat the process with another layer of sausage patties, scrambled egg, and bacon crumbles. Use enough layers until your pan is full or you've run out of ingredients.

Bake at 375 (F) for thirty minutes, or until done. Check the eggs for firmness. When nearly done, the dish can be finished off in the microwave if needed. Reheat in the microwave as needed. Serve with Avacado slices or sliced tomato with the beverage of your choice. It's good any time of day - and its full of protein with very few carbs.

I hope you've enjoyed these few recipies. I'm sure there are many more out there. I have quite a few but will quit for now. Bon apetite!

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An outdoor enthusiast with a passion for travel and adventure. John is a professional consultant and photojournalist.

Bristol, TN
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